WORK to realign the infamous Black Spur section of the South Gippsland Highway between Meeniyan and Koonwarra will start “in coming weeks” according to Major Roads Projects Victoria (MRPV).
The multi-million dollar project between Meeniyan and Koonwarra was proclaimed by the Federal and State Governments in November 2019.
MRPV program director, Ray Paterson said “MRPV is undertaking an upgrade of a section of highway near Koonwarra to significantly improve safety.
“Major work activities, including construction of site access roads, will begin in the coming weeks with the project to be completed in 2022.”
Mr Paterson indicated that MRPV, with construction partner CBP Contractors, is already undertaking early site preparation for the new section of the highway.
The realignment project when finished will see a new straighter 2.3- kilometre section of “A-class” highway built between Old Koonwarra-Meeniyan Road and Minns Road, including two new bridges over the Tarwin River’s West Branch.
A 1.1-kilometre length of the present highway will be bypassed to remove nine sharp bends, with part of the route becoming an extension of Caithness Road and a further stretch turning into a local access only no-through road.
An underpass will also be built for the Great Southern Rail Trail (GRST) east of the new South Gippsland Highway and Caithness Road intersection, along with a link under the easternmost of the two river bridges.
“Since 2000 there have been 44 crashes recorded along this stretch of road, including two fatalities,” Mr Paterson said.
“MRPV works with the Department of Transport and Victoria Police to understand the factors that contributed to the incidents,” he said.
“By removing winding bends on this section of the South Gippsland Highway, the project aims to reduce the number of crashes in this area, which is well above the state average.”
Gippsland South MLA Danny O’Brien said “this is a saga that the people of South Gippsland are heartily sick of.
“I fought hard for funding for this project and it was announced more than three years ago but work still hasn’t begun properly.
“I’m very pleased to hear that work will begin soon, but I must say we’ve been told that before – the contractor [CPB Contractors] was announced in November last year and we were told that construction would ‘start early next year’.
“I wrote to the [Victorian Transport Infrastructure] Minister [Jacinta Allan] in September last year seeking a start date but she still hasn’t bothered to respond,” Mr O’Brien said.
“It’s way past time that we saw dirt being turned on this project – we’ve waited for decades and it’s time it began.”
Mr O’Brien said representatives of VicRoads told a community meeting in February 2018 that work would start on the realignment in the summer of 2018/2019.
However, when no on-ground work had taken place by September 2019 he contacted the Minister seeking an updated timeline.
Mr O’Brien said the cost of the project under the present Victorian Government “has increased 130 per cent from [the originally quoted] $50 million to $115.2 million” and that he was “also yet to receive an explanation from the Minister” as to why.
CPB Contractors issued a statement on Thursday February 6, 2020 about the Black Spur realignment and another Queensland-based road upgrade the firm has won, describing them as “two major regional highway projects.”
Both projects, “worth a total of $164 million in revenue to CPB Contractors, are underway, with completion for the South Gippsland Highway Upgrade scheduled for 2020”, the statement said.MRPV also advised that part of the South Gippsland Highway project will investigate other possible safety upgrades between Meeniyan and Yarram, though no further details of were available so far.