By Kirra Grimes
EXPECT to see plenty of road works going on across South Gippsland and Bass Coast in the coming months, as the state government rolls out a multi-million-dollar “maintenance blitz” to improve safety and reliability for motorists.
The Andrews Government is spending more than $870 million to improve hundreds of freeways, arterial and country roads across Victoria, with $57.4 million going to Gippsland projects, including:
• Constructing new dual lane roundabouts for Back Beach Road and Phillip Island Road on Phillip Island, at a cost of $8.75 million and $7 million respectively.
• Reconstructing a 1.5km section of the South Gippsland Highway at Foster, at a cost of $1,665,073.
• Reconstructing a 2.1km section of Foster-Promontory Road at Fish Creek at a cost of $1,502,280.
• Reconstructing a 1.5km section of Tarwin Lower Road at Middle Tarwin ($973,440).
• Reconstructing a 1.1km section of the South Gippsland Highway at Kardella South ($765,180).
• Reconstructing a 1.4km section of Inverloch-Kongwak Road at Kongwak ($694,980).
• Reconstructing a 1.2km section of Buffalo-Tarwin Lower Road at Middle Tarwin ($624,000).
• Reconstructing a 1.1km section of Inverloch-Kongwak Road at Wattle Bank ($622,400).
• Reconstructing a 550m section of the Strzelecki Highway at Koorooman ($617,400).
Other roads to receive upgrades, scheduled for completion by June 2020, include Lang Lang Poowong Road at Nyora; Korumburra-Warragul Road at Ranceby; the South Gippsland Highway at Lang Lang, Loch, Jeetho, Ruby, Leongatha, Koonwarra, and Toora; Inverloch-Venus Bay Road at Inverloch; the Bass Highway at Lang Lang, Dalyston, Anderson, Kilcunda; Bass Highway East at Bass; Kilcunda-Bass Highway at Kilcunda; the Strzelecki Highway at Boorool, Berrys Creek, and Mirboo North; Meeniyan-Mirboo North Road at Mardan; and Meeniyan-Mirboo North Road at Mirboo North and Dumbalk.
Around 220 kilometres of roads across the region will be repaired, rebuilt and resurfaced as part of the blitz, with the government expecting 1,100 construction jobs to be created as part of this work over the next 12 months.
Crews will be out in force, with reduced speeds and traffic management in place, and drivers asked to adhere to the changed conditions for the safety of roadworkers and the community.
Member for Bass Jordan Crugnale, and Member for Eastern Victoria Jane Garrett, said the works would ensure residents of their electorates could safely get to where they’re going, on smoother and more reliable roads.
“We know how important these roads are for Gippsland families getting to work or taking their kids to school – that’s why we’re fixing them,” both members said in a statement last week.
Coal Creek curves remain untouched
But despite the government hype around the “massive” blitz, some significant and long-awaited projects remain unfunded, with no indication when or if they’ll actually come to fruition.
These include safety improvements to the South Gippsland Highway near Coal Creek at Korumburra that have been in planning stage for close to 20 years.
There have been 17 reported crashes on this now-notorious section of highway between January 2014 and December 2018, including two fatalities and five crashes causing serious injuries.
The speed limit was lowered from 80km/h to 60km/h temporarily in 2017, and then permanently in early 2018, in response to these incidents.
Audio tactile line marking to alert drivers when they are leaving their lane was also upgraded in April 2017.
But some locals remain frustrated that more hasn’t been done to reduce the risks.
Among them is David Tattersall, a former long-term employee of Coal Creek Community Park and Museum, who’s driven along this road twice a day for over 25 years.
“It’s about time they got their act into gear and cleaned it up,” David said in response to the state government’s announcement last week.
“We’ve had enough accidents on that corner already. And lowering the speed limit is not the answer- if we keep doing that, we’ll end up driving everywhere at five miles an hour with someone carrying a red flag in front of us!”
Upgrades proposed for the 4.5 kilometre section of the South Gippsland Highway in question include some widening and realignment, safety barrier installation, and two new roundabouts – one near Coal Creek Motel and another at the Silkstone Road intersection.
Regional Roads Victoria has completed
environmental and cultural heritage investigations and undertaken extensive community consultation on the preferred realignment route, with feedback currently being incorporated into the most recent plans.
Responding to locals’ frustrations with the lack of progress beyond the planning stage, Member for Eastern Victoria Jane Garrett told the Sentinel-Times:
“We’re making sure we get this project right – that’s why we’ve been out talking to locals and are actively investigating widening and realigning sections of the road and introducing two roundabouts.
“Earlier this year we released updated plans for community feedback, and this is currently being incorporated into the final design.”
Other local projects that remain in the planning stage, without state government funding to move forward, include:
* The construction of two new roundabouts and a service road at Newhaven (Boys Home Road and Forrest Avenue).
* Works to improve traffic flow and safety along the Bass Highway between Anderson and Leongatha (the intersection at Leongatha South-Outtrim Road and through Kilcunda township).
* Upgrades to improve traffic flow, safety and access on Phillip Island Road, San Remo, including traffic lights at Back Beach Road and improved and safer access to Bergin Grove and Marine Parade.
The full program of the state government’s proposed and funded maintenance works can be viewed on Regional Road Victoria’s website, regionalroads.vic.gov.au.