THE Coalition has announced that a re-elected Coalition Government would allocate $25 million to upgrade the South Gippsland Highway, with funding to be matched dollar for dollar by the Victorian Government.
The announcement was made last Friday at the Black Spur section of the highway by Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester and Liberal Member for McMillan Russell Broadbent, The Nationals Member for Gippsland South Danny O’Brien and MLC Melina Bath.
The exact sections of the highway which will receive upgrade funding would be determined in partnership with the Victorian Government. The Coalition expects a share of the funding would be used to fix the notorious Black Spur section south of Koonwarra. However, VicRoads’ latest Information Update has costed the realignment at $51 million.
“A significant proportion of the Federal Government’s $25million will be going towards work on the Black Spur,” said Mr Chester, who described the funding allocation as ‘a major breakthrough’ for the South Gippsland region, as the highway has long been in need of a major overhaul.
“While the highway is not on the national road network, Russell Broadbent has been a strong advocate to secure ‘off-network’ federal funding for this road on behalf of his local community,” Mr Chester said.
“The challenge now is for the State Government to match the $25 million to bring it to $50 million to improve road safety and productivity on this road,” he said, adding that this funding will not only change lives of South Gippsland residents and visitors, it can also save lives.
Mr Broadbent said he wanted to see the funding directed to the Black Spur and other sections of the highway further east towards Yarram.
“The 3.4km section of the Black Spur bends is steep and narrow and has been the scene of more than a dozen accidents in the past five years, including serious truck crashes,” Mr Broadbent said.
“The realignment of this road is a high priority and we will consult with VicRoads and the
community to ensure local residents and freight operators get home safely, and provide a safer route for tourists.”
State Member for Gippsland South Danny O’Brien said more than 4200 vehicles drive along the Black Spur section of road each day, including 800 trucks.
Crash rates for this section of the highway are eight times higher than the state average for similar roads. VicRoads has estimated that the realignment would reduce current crash rates on that section by 80 per cent.
“The South Gippsland Highway is a critical freight route for our local farmers, businesses and tourists heading to the Prom and I have spoken to trucking companies and drivers on numerous occasions about the urgent need for upgrades,” Mr O’Brien said.
“I have been advocating strongly in State Parliament for more roads money and for the Black Spur realignment in particular. This announcement today ensures there is Federal Government money on the table ready to be matched by the State Labor Government which now needs to step up to the plate.”
Mr Broadbent said that there are also other sections of the highway further east towards Yarram that require upgrades, and that he will be working with the Minister to ensure these areas are not forgotten.