THE south-west’s arterial roads will not get any extra cash for their upkeep in the next financial year, the state opposition claims.
It says upgrade works of major thoroughfares such as the Princes Highway, Cobden-Warrnambool Road, Henty Highway and Great Ocean Road will be deferred under the belt tightening.
Opposition roads spokesman Luke Donnellan said there was persistent speculation that VicRoads’ capacity to perform maintenance would be significantly impeded by budget constraints imposed by Spring Street.
He urged Deputy Premier Peter Ryan to “come clean” on the budget cuts and said rumours were circulating about the funding freeze.
The move has not been ruled out by the state government, with inquiries deferred to VicRoads.
“Whether it’s a partial reduction or a complete freeze on maintenance works in regional Victoria is uncertain,” Mr Donnellan said.
“It wouldn’t surprise me given that these rumours are coming from right across the state and the Coalition government has failed to rebut them. What is certain is that the state government are taking more money away from country roads and failing to redress significant road issues like the damaged Woolsthorpe-Heywood Road.”
The Standard contacted Transport Minister Terry Mulder’s office, which said the matter was in the hands of VicRoads. A spokeswoman for Mr Mulder said the state government had injected a further $40 million into country roads and bridges in the 2012-13 budget.
VicRoads south-west region director William Tieppo said the organisation’s proposed road asset maintenance program for 2012-13 was not finalised.
“Funding distribution to regions varies annually depending on the changes in risks and needs across the state,” Mr Tieppo said.
“This means that from year to year, funding for a region may increase or decrease depending on what works are prioritised across the state.”
Rural Councils Victoria chairman Ken Gale said the state government needed to be clearer about how regional roads would be impacted by the state budget.
“If the rumours are true, and we must remember they haven’t been confirmed yet, but if they are true it would be very alarming,” Cr Gale said.
The state government has pumped $15 million over four years into constructing six passing lanes along the Princes Highway between Colac and the state border.
Forty councils statewide will receive up to $1 million each for local government roads as part of the 2012-13 budget.