Western District MP and South West Coast candidate James Purcell's vision to reintroduce a country roads board has paid dividends, with $333 million invested this year to repair, rebuild and resurface 1,500 kilometres of country arterial roads – creating more than 650 construction jobs.
Regional Roads Victoria was created last year after Mr Purcell instigated a parliamentary inquiry into VicRoads management of regional roads, which included a call to split VicRoads into regional and metropolitan focused groups.
"Now we have a regional group that has the funding to fix our country roads and is consulting with community and delivering projects that are desperately needed in our region," Mr Purcell said.
"It gives me a great sense of pride to see roadworks across the region. We won't get it all done straight away, but the wheels are in motion and there is now dedicated focus on rebuilding our country roads."
There are more than 900 projects in the first funding round, with 177 of those in the south west of the state. Local councils must deliver these works by June 2019. Round two of the Fixing Country Roads Program will open early next year, with an additional $70 million available to councils with eligible projects.
"I've fought hard to have our roads included and it's great to see some major works underway, including:
- planning and works for long term infrastructure on the Green Triangle freight route ;
- multiple bridge options on the Princes Highway West (between Colac and Portland) and Henty Highway (between Hamilton and Portland) to accommodate heavier trucks, known as High Productivity Freight Vehicles (HPFV);
- $40 million to begin the process of upgrading the Princes Highway between Colac and the South Australian border;
- $40 million allocated to narrow roads upgrades;
- maintenance work on some of the worst roads in the region, including Woolsthorpe-Heywood Road, Hopkins Highway, Warrnambool- Caramut Road, the Koroit-Port Fairy Road, Penhurst-Warrnambool Road and Madeira Packet Road in Portland.
In his four year push to bring the state of south-west roads to the government's attention Mr Purcell ran a number of public consultation and awareness campaigns, including a survey to identify the ten worst roads in the south-west.
"That list could easily have been the 50 or 100 worst roads and it was difficult for my team to define a top 10, but I am proud to say that almost all of those identified in that original group have either been completed already or are included in some form in this initial round of works.
Mr Purcell said these road improvements were just more proof of the value of having an independent working for a community to get things done.