RECORD-BREAKING exports through the Port of Portland are expected to put further strain on south-west roads.
Around 5.5 million tones of timber, grain and wood chip will be loaded on to cargo ships mainly bound for China.
Ports Minister David Hodgett and Premier Denis Napthine yesterday backed roads and rail in a five-year vision to support the state’s third largest port.
“The key issue is the transport links to the port — the road and the rail that we as a government are focusing on,” Dr Napthine said
The South West Coast MP said he had “visionary” hopes to upgrade the rail line between Portland and Mildura.
“In the longer term it is also standardisation of the rail line all the way to Mildura and potentially from Mildura north to connect with the east west line from Sydney,” he said.
“The Port of Portland and the Wimmera is served by a standard gauge rail but once we get past Ararat the Mildura line is broad gauge.
‘‘Broad gauge rail goes to Geelong and Melbourne but not Portland.
‘‘This is a major nation building project, but this is in the early stages.”
In the city itself, Dr Napthine said the focus was on pedestrians.
“We’re investing in the ring road which has suffered in winter and we’re putting in a pedestrian overpass where there is pedestrian traffic lights right in the middle of the ring road, which is very disruptive for the trucks but also dangerous for children,” he said.
He said he expected work to begin “almost immediately” on the $6 million facelift for the Condah Hotspur road with shared funding from the state, Commonwealth, council and businesses.
Port of Portland boss Jim Cooper said there were no plans to expand the port.
“We had a record year the year before last with 5.3 million tones and effectively we equalled that last year,” Mr Cooper said.