IT’S been a nightmare few weeks on south-west roads. Four lives have been lost and countless others irrevocably changed. The horror crash on the Princes Highway at Illowa on Wednesday where a Koroit man died has reignited calls for significant road upgrades. The Princes Highway is referred to as national highway number one. But the highway, particularly west of Colac stretching to the South Australian border, is far from that.
For years the community has campaigned for significant upgrades. Through persistence, overtaking lanes have been built near Yambuk, Rosebrook, Illowa and Terang in the past decade or so. Councils united (pictured) in a 2010 campaign to make highway one number one, even blockading a stretch of the Princes Highway in Warrnambool to make the point. But progress has been too slow. For years now VicRoads has been looking at traffic volumes and suitable sites to make the case for extra lanes. The possibility of duplicating the highway between Warrnambool and Port Fairy has been floated but has it ever been realistically pursued?
Traffic has increased considerably on the highway between Warrnambool and Port Fairy and Koroit, Killarney and Tower Hill and Port Fairy populations have increased and are predicted to grow more. Logically, traffic to Warrnambool, which also has a growing population, is increasing.
Add an expected tourism boom to the mix and our national highway needs to be upgraded. The section of where Wednesday’s crash happened is widely known as the ‘mad mile’. It got the name because that’s where young men tested the speed of their flying machines in the 1960s and ‘70s. Today, the ‘mad mile’ monicker is still appropriate because it’s the only straight stretch between Dennington and Rosebrook, outside designated overtaking lanes, where passing is safe. There is a flurry of passing moves should a motorist be travelling under the limit – depending on the direction of travel, it’s either the first chance to pass or the last chance for kilometres.
The number of houses lining the ‘mad mile’ has increased and the time has come for turning lanes to be introduced and wider verges created, at a minimum. The entrance to Tower Hill State Game and the busy turnoff to Koroit add more issues. Today we called on the region’s state politicians to stand side by side to fight for major improvements to the highway. We will continue to explore the issue and campaign for changes. Our lives depend on it.