The Mirror News

Black Spur project gains momentum

THE proposed Black Spur Realignment project is gaining in acceleration following the Drop In Session held by VicRoads last Thursday.

VicRoads representatives met with over 50 interested members of the community at Koonwarra Hall, including a number from Koonwarra, Foster, Meeniyan, Fish Creek, Leongatha and surrounds.

“Many people were already familiar with the project and we received positive feedback about the realignment plan,” said Chris Padovan who is Team Leader – Integrated Transport and Land Use.

The Black Spur Realignment project focuses on addressing the issues confronting motorists along the notorious 3.4km stretch of the South Gippsland Highway.

There have been 13 reported accidents within the last five years on the 3.4km section of narrow, winding road. Crash rates for this section of highway are significantly higher than the Victorian state average.

With more than 5000 vehicles traversing the Black Spur each day, the difficulties, increased time factors and risks involved in taking on this section of the highway have an impact on locals and tourists, in addition to the 800 trucks which travel on that section each day servicing the district’s livestock and dairy industries.

The proposed realignment of the South Gippsland Highway at Black Spur would remove several tight curves and widen the road to create a straighter, more level section of highway.

The suggested route begins east of the existing highway alignment and crosses the Great Southern Rail Trail, then runs along a ridge between the Tarwin River and the Black Spur Creek wetlands before crossing the Tarwin River at two locations. The route then re-joins the existing highway west of Minns Road

As a result the highway would be upgraded to ‘A’ class road standard, which will improve road safety.

In addition to improved road safety, reduced travel times would lower costs for freight and tourism operators and would provide better access to ports in Melbourne, Hastings and Barry’s Beach, as well as agricultural and tourist destinations.

Those attending the session were interested to view to plans and maps which detailed many of the aspects of the project which would include:

  • Construction of two new bridges over the Tarwin River;
  • Construction of a highway underpass east of Old Korumburra-Meeniyan Road to provide access for the Great Southern Rail Trail;
  • Provision of access for the Great Southern Rail Trail underneath the new bridge near Minns Road;
  • Construction of a new intersection to maintain access for Caithness Road, and
  • Removal of nine substandard curves to increase alignment.

“Many remembered the consultation process VicRoads conducted 10 years ago, where the community identified this alignment as their preferred route, and still strongly support this plan,” Mr Padovan said.

“Some nearby landholders said it would make entering the highway from side roads much safer and improve the South Gippsland Highway overall,” he added.

Included in the improvements suggested in the project’s plans are additional access points to the Great Southern Rail Trail and the creation of safe viewing locations on the side of the road.

“Some locals were interested in VicRoads’ plans to work with the South Gippsland Landcare Network to vegetate the area,” Mr Padovan said.

A number of attendees voiced concern over plans which would, if the project received funding to the tune of $51m, require the removal of native and non-native vegetation to create a path for the new section of road. This includes the removal of 20 trees of significant species, the Eucalyptus Cypellocarpa, Eucalyptus Globulus and Eucalyptus Strzeleckii.

VicRoads will offset this removal by revegetating the area once the project is complete and be responsible for the management and improvement of this vegetation for 10 years. This is a requirement under the Planning and Environment Act.

A total of four hectares of land would need to be acquired for this project. Financial compensation will be negotiated with the affected property owners.

“Local input is a valuable step in developing our plans and we thank the community for their continuing generosity in giving their time and knowledge,” Mr Padovan said.

VicRoads is currently developing a business case in order to explore future funding opportunities to construct the realignment.

A strategic assessment has been submitted and a business case is being developed to apply for funding. This will be submitted towards the end of this year and be considered alongside other projects across the state.

This project will ultimately be considered alongside and prioritised against all other road infrastructure improvements across the state.

If successful, the project will be part of the May 2016-17 budget announcements.

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