WHETHER or not the dilapidated and dangerous Princes Highway west of Colac is classed as a road of national significance will not impact the potential for it to gain funding as a dual freeway, the federal government says.
A spokesman for the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack, said whether or not the section of the Princes Highway, west of Colac, was added to the National Land Transport Network “did not affect the Federal Government’s ability to invest in it”.
Late last week The Standard obtained a letter from state Roads Minister Luke Donnellan to then-infrastructure minister Darren Chester, from March 2017, calling for the road to be put on the National Land Transport Network list, which would spark a process to gain joint funding.
That was seen as a vital step in trying to get the highway duplicated between Colac and the South Australian border.
Western Victoria MP James Purcell last weekend called on Wannon MP Dan Tehan to pressure his federal government colleagues to make the dilapidated and dangerous Princes Highway (west) a road of national significance.
“We went to Mr Tehan and said we need it changed,” he said.
“He said we needed a letter from the state government saying they rated it as an important road and then he’ll do his bit. It took us about a year to get that letter and we took it back to Mr Tehan. Now it’s his job to do what he promised.”
The deputy prime minister's spokesman said the Federal Government took concerns about the state of the nation’s roads seriously.
"Roads in poor condition pose a significant safety problem as well as affecting efficiency and productivity for all road users," he said.
"The Government has committed a total of more than $970 million to projects on the Princes Highway across New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia.
"On Princes Highway West, this includes $274.2 million to duplicate the highway between Waurn Ponds and Colac; and $20 million towards the $40 million upgrade of the highway from Colac to the South Australian Border, which is currently underway."
The spokesman said the government was also developing a Princes Highway Corridor Strategy, as announced in 2017.
"The strategy is being developed in parallel with a review of the National Land Transport Network," he said.
"The Princes Highway corridor is a long stretch of highway which runs through three states, including the full length of Victoria. We want to make sure we get our investment priorities for the next decade right and give everyone a chance to have their say.”
The Standard has followed up with questions to Mr McCormack about the strategy, when it will be finished and if it includes plans to duplicate the Princes Highway from Colac to SA border. The Standard has also asked Mr McCormack why the Colac to Winchelsea stretch was funded as a priority ahead of the development of the strategy.
Mr Purcell said Mr Tehan had to put pressure on federal Infrastructure Minister Mr McCormack to get the duplication done.
He said funding of $300 million, as jointly put forward by councils from west of Colac to the South Australian border to fix the road, was the “absolute minimum” amount needed.
Mr Tehan said his government would be considering the road over the coming months.
“The reason I wrote to Luke Donnellan in April was to ensure that it still remains the state government’s firm commitment to place this as a road of national significance,” he said.
“That was their position last year and it’s a position that I welcome. What I want to make sure is that now the negotiations are about to start that it still clearly remains their priority and they will have it as one of their top priorities in their discussions with the federal government.”