Member for Benambra Bill Tilley has issued a call to action for the Minister for Roads and Road Safety to ensure that planning for a heavy vehicle bypass at Rutherglen is progressed as a matter of priority.
In the lead-up to the last federal election the government announced substantial new investments in land transport infrastructure in Benambra, including $4 million for the Kiewa Valley Highway upgrade and $2 million to undertake planning for the Rutherglen bypass.
The $2 million for Rutherglen is specifically for planning to deliver a viable long-term route for heavy vehicles and the Victorian Government has announced that it has agreed to match the funding for these projects.
Mr Tilley made it clear that the Indigo Shire Council and the community were very keen to progress this planning when he spoke in parliament last week.
“The need for a heavy vehicle detour in Rutherglen has been a perennial issue for residents, politicians and governments, but recent developments have exacerbated the problem,” he said.
“The creation of a regional Woolworths distribution centre, the relocation of the Wodonga cattle saleyards and the development of the Wodonga TAFE driver training centre, all located at Barnawartha, have been drivers in jobs and growth for the region, but a number of heavy vehicles are now using the town's narrow thoroughfare.
“A major rail freight siding has now also begun operations and potentially will add to the heavy vehicle traffic.”
Mr Tilley said constituents in Rutherglen and visitors to the area were concerned for their safety when getting in and out of their cars or simply crossing the street.
“A recently imposed 40-kilometre-an-hour speed limit has had little effect on mitigating the problem,” he said.
“Main Street, Rutherglen was designed for horses and buggies, not B-doubles and Indigo shire is very keen to impress on all the importance and the need for the release of some funds for interim works to get some trucks out of Main Street, Rutherglen.
“Residents and tourists deserve this project to be progressed.”
A full report by Aurecon, commissioned by Indigo shire and VicRoads several years ago, shortlisted four alternate routes and considered environmental, social, economic and transport issues for all four options.
Mr Tilley said the Rutherglen community felt that the matter kept ending up in the too-hard basket.
“I look forward to the response from the minister,” he said.
The Free Press spoke to Rutherglen resident Jaclyn Moore who said action is far overdue.
“Several truck drivers with whom I’ve spoken say they hate travelling through Rutherglen as it is so stressful because there is no room for error,” she said.
“As a community we want action now before anyone gets hurt or killed.
“Everyone knows there is a problem in Main Street Rutherglen, but what we really want to know is when is something going to be done about it.
“There are many dangers that Main Street currently possesses while heavy vehicles continue to travel it and the sooner they have an alternative route to travel the better.”