South-west councils and The Standard have combined to launch a community campaign to fight for the Princes Highway West to be upgraded.
Since 2012 there have been nine fatalities, 109 people who have suffered serious injuries and many more who have been injured as a result of accidents along this stretch of the highway. It has been 19 years since the last VicRoads strategy for the road was produced.
The region's councils have joined forces to say enough is enough, it's time for the deteriorating highway to be improved. The community is being urged to get behind the 'Fix it Now! The Great South Coast Deserves a Better Highway!’ campaign.
The Princes Highway West Action Alliance includes Warrnambool City Council, Moyne, Corangamite and Colac Otway shires.
The councils are pushing for funding to upgrade road infrastructure on the highway, between Colac and the South Australian border.
Warrnambool City Council infrastructure director Scott Cavanagh said with the federal election looming it was now time to secure cash commitments for the disintegrating road.
“Our community has been incredibly patient, but enough is enough,” he said. “Ask anyone who travels the highway on a regular basis, and they’ll tell you just how frustrating and unsafe it is and how most people try and avoid using the Princes Highway at all if they can.
"The cost to our community is enormous. The road fatalities, injuries and near misses ... the significant financial impacts on critical local industries like our farming, logging and tourism endeavours … there’s no doubt that the current state of the Prince’s Highway between Colac and the South Australian border is a major problem.
"And we can’t just sit by and do nothing, so we’re launching this campaign and asking the community to get behind us to really drive home the message to our politicians – both state and federal, that we need action.”
He said the campaign message was simple.
“We’re asking both our local federal member Dan Tehan and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to finally do something to support this funding," he said. "So we’re asking our community to let them know their thoughts by including the hashtag #NotHappyDan on their social media posts.”
Earlier this week the PHWAA announced three priority projects had been identified as needing urgent upgrades - the blue Church intersection west of Colac , installation of overtaking lanes or ‘2 +1’ infrastructure from Colac to Camperdown and the installation of overtaking lanes and duplication through Dennington on from Warrnambool to Port Fairy.
"In launching this campaign, we’re hoping that the community will contact their local pollies and let them know that this is something the entire community wants," he said.
"We need public support to make it happen.”
Prominent south-west businesses who regularly use the dangerous Princes Highway have thrown their full support behind improvements to the region's crucial link to Melbourne.
The united campaign by councils from across the Great South Coast has included plenty of fierce commentary from regular users, who say the road is in desperate need of upgrades.
Business operators have shared their concerns and issues with the Princes Highway West Action Alliance, and across a range of social media platforms.
Glenn Owen from Owen Truss said the poor state of the highway caused damage to his product and ultimately meant a financial loss for his business.
"Half our problem is the roads we are running on it knocks our product around, so that does slow us down and makes the driver's day longer, making sure everything gets there in one piece," he said.
"We just need better roads to get around on."
He said his company, which has operated for more than 40 years, was changing trailers to airbag trailers to help prevent damage.
"Previously it never used to be a problem, but now that the roads have deteriorated that much we've got to change our equipment to suit the crap roads," he said.
"It is costing me money, it costs me a lot of money.
"We've got a pretty good relationship with the pollies out this way, but we just need more funding to come to this side of the state.
"We just seem to be forgotten about down here because of the fact we are a fairly safe area."
He said at his competitors businesses in Ballarat and Wangaratta it was easier for them to secure drivers as it was an "easier career" due to the better state of the roads in those areas.
Bamstone managing director Michael Steel said the south-west deserved better.
"This is the heart and soul of the western district and it's a gateway to Melbourne," he said.
"When I drive down the other side of Melbourne or north of Melbourne I see much better roads and I just think our turn has got to come, but it just doesn't seem to happen.
"I say we should be next.
"I think we have waited long enough."
Graham Ryan from Ryans Transport suggested simply putting up a sign on the highway to slow down traffic was not good enough.
"If it was my business and I had potholes in my yard WorkSafe would close us down," he said.
"We would not be able to operate with conditions like that, yet the government seem to be able to put up a 40km/h sign and get away with it."
David and Shirley Watts have lived along the notorious 'Mad Mile' at Illowa for nearly 12 years, and say a Princes Highway upgrade is long overdue.
Mr and Mrs Watts are backing the campaign to secure funding for improvements to the dangerous and dilapidated road, and have witnessed numerous crashes along the stretch, including a tragic fatal accident last year. They would like to see turning lanes installed, to make it easier for homeowners to pull into their driveways.
"It just needs fixing," Mr Watts said.
"When you come back from the Warrnambool direction and you have to cross the centre line it's hard. If we see a big truck we don't stop, we keep going and turn (at the Tower Hill intersection) and come back. There is a lot of traffic streaming down the road."
The couple said it was busiest during the morning and late afternoons. Recently they have taken a trip to Perth, leaving from Melbourne.
"There's a lot of dual highways over there and then we have the duplication at Geelong," Mr Watts said.
"They are doing all the roads down there but nothing is happening back here whatsoever. We are forgotten land."
They said they fear for visitors who come to their house.
"We have friends who are frightened when they turn in," Mrs Watts said.
"We turn our blinker on a long way before we need to turn. We would dread it if an accident happened right out the front of our gates with friends. You don't want to see that."
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