Wire rope barriers will be installed along the Princes Highway between Warrnambool and Allansford but a roads lobby group says the works are nowhere near enough to improve safety for drivers on the dangerous and dilapidated road.
It also has concerns the new infrastructure will slow traffic in the left lane, causing traffic congestion.
The state government has announced a series of minor upgrades between Allansford and Panmure and from Allansford to Warrnambool, but the Princes Highway West Action Alliance (PHWAA) says the planned improvements - while welcomed - fall well short of what is urgently needed for the major arterial highway.
The state government has also flagged installing audio-tactile lines to keep drivers alert.
The Allansford to Panmure section will be widened and the shoulders of the road sealed.
The government has said it would also 'explore minor safety improvements’ to intersections.
PHWAA spokesman Scott Cavanagh said while safety improvements were always welcome, the minor improvements would "clearly not address the much larger safety concerns about this key stretch of highway".
“We don’t need to be tinkering at the edges of these problem stretches of road with minor improvements,” he said.
“We need substantive and major upgrades and we need them now.”
Mr Cavanagh said the Allansford to Panmure improvements must be well supported by increased overtaking opportunities.
Between Allansford to Warrnambool, Mr Cavanagh said a significant concern was the lack of left turning deceleration lanes at Jubilee Park Road and Rowans Lane.
“We are really concerned that the introduction of wire rope barriers will only cause vehicles to slow in the left lane and become a traffic problem," he said.
"Jubilee Park Road is a significant issue because of the large numbers of vehicles towing caravans that use that intersection to access the caravan park."
The Alliance is also urging both the state and federal government to consider funding upgrades to the short section between the two project areas, which has been identified in the Traffix Group’s assessment as requiring duplication and an intersection upgrade at the Great Ocean Road turn off.
“It looks pretty silly for these works to occur and not have the 2.5 kilometre and one of the busiest sections of highway running through Allansford, not addressed,” Mr Cavanagh said.
Last week the Alliance launched the 'Fix It Now! The Great South Coast Deserves a Better Highway!’ campaign after lobbying for months to draw attention to the major arterial’s need for long overdue works.
The campaign launch followed the identification of three priority projects between Colac and Port Fairy.
- Blue Church intersection west of Colac - $5 million
- Installation of overtaking lanes or ‘2 +1’ infrastructure from Colac to Camperdown - $21m
- Installation of overtaking lanes and duplication through Dennington on the Warrnambool to Port Fairy section of the highway - $60.8 m
“While we certainly appreciate any improvements to safety, it is time to get serious about what we’re doing here and finally give our communities the same level of safety on the Princes Highway West that other similar road corridors in Victoria have been afforded,” Mr Cavanagh said.
The PHWAA is a joint initiative of Warrnambool City Council, Moyne Shire, Corangamite Shire and Colac Otway Shire.
Regional Roads Victoria safe system road infrastructure program director Scott Lawrence said the state government was planning upgrades to roads across the south-west.
“We’re planning a range of safety improvements for the Princes Highway between Warrnambool and Panmure to prevent head-on and run-off-road crashes," he said.
“We’ve been discussing our preliminary plans with local councils and emergency services, and in coming weeks we’ll be talking to the broader community about their needs and how the road is being used. We’ll consider all this feedback as we finalise our designs.
“We want everyone travelling on the Princes Highway between Warrnambool and Panmure to get to their destination safety – whether it’s local forestry and dairy industries transporting their goods to market, or commuters heading to work each day.”
The funding for works will come from the $1.4 billion Towards Zero Action Plan and upgrades will be delivered in partnership between Regional Roads Victoria and the Transport Accident Commission.
In the five-year period between 2013 and 2017, one person lost their life and nine people suffered serious injuries on this stretch of the highway.
The state government said improvements being considered include flexible safety barriers on the roadside and centre of the road to prevent run-off-road and head-on crashes, and rumble strip line-marking to alert drivers if they have accidentally veered out of their lane.
On the section of road between Allansford and Panmure, this will include road widening to achieve the desired distance between the road and the barriers. Where this distance can’t be achieved due to the roadside environment or other constraints, the designs will be adjusted accordingly.
The state government said the federal government was developing a Princes Highway Corridor Strategy in consultation with New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
It said the strategy was intended to provide a comprehensive picture of the infrastructure investment opportunities across the entire Princes Highway corridor and will present prioritised low, medium and high cost options for investment over the short, medium and long term.
The state government said it had invested $84 million for road maintenance in south-west Victoria.
There has been road rebuilding upgrades on Casterton-Apsley Road, Penshurst-Dunkeld Road and the Hamilton Highway at Caramut, and work is continuing on upgrades on Lavers Hill-Cobden Road, Warrnambool-Caramut Road and Coleraine-Edenhope Road.
It said extensive asphalting and resealing works on roads right across the region.
The Australian and Victorian governments have also invested $40 million for a dedicated maintenance package to improve the Princes Highway between Colac and the South Australian border.
In Warrnambool there has been resurfacing upgrades to the Princes Highway between Liebig Street and Glenrowe Avenue, in Terang two sections of the road have been rebuilt and 8.4km resurfaced 8.4km between Boorcan and Port Fairy.
Over the next two years the state government advised it will be undertaking:
- Five major road rebuilding works between Camperdown and Terang;
- Repair to sections west of Port Fairy, Yambuck and Tyrendarra; and
- Significant rehabilitation of several sites between Portland and Heywood.
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