With the Victorian State Election to be held on November 26, tensions are running high, with Victoria’s major parties clashing over a $10 billion road maintenance pledge.
The Victorian Liberal and Nationals have said they plan to increase the state’s annual road asset management budget from around $600 million a year to $1 billion a year.
“A billion dollars a year is a lot of money for road maintenance but we need it,” said Victorian opposition leader Matthew Guy. “Country roads, outer suburban roads, they need it because they’re falling apart.”
As part of the investment, there would also be a review of construction standards, with the aim of increasing accountability of VicRoads and contractors; and a reduction in red tape that often escalates construction costs. There would also be an audit of all state-managed roads.
The Victorian coalition has accused Labor of cutting the road maintenance budget by 10 per cent when it came into government, and lowering speed limits on rural and regional roads to compensate for deteriorating conditions.
But Labor says it has invested an average of $813 million a year on road maintenance over the past four years, compared to an average of $493 million a year when the coalition was last in office.
“We have rebuilt or resurfaced more than 10,000 kilometres of regional roads and nearly 2000 kilometres of metropolitan roads to ensure quality and safety – the largest road maintenance program in Victoria’s history,” said Roads and Road Safety Minister Ben Carroll.
The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) has called on both political parties to provide funding certainty for regional road maintenance, stating the terrible condition of country roads has reached crisis levels.
VFF president Emma Germano said years of neglect and underfunding has left Victoria’s regional road network in a ruinous state and in desperate need of investment.
“More than 50 per cent of all road fatalities occur in regional Victoria, despite it being home to 24 per cent of the State’s population. We won’t accept that,” Germano added.
As part of its ‘Fair Go for Regional Victoria’ campaign, the VFF has called for a minimum of $2 billion over the next four years for targeted arterial road maintenance.
A Wimmera district grain councillor for the VFF and chair of its transport and infrastructure committee, Ryan Milgate, has also taken up the fight to fix his regional roads.
The road outside his farm at Minyip, 320km north-west of Melbourne, has 18 signs warning motorists of a rough surface, with the speed limit permanently reduced to 80km/h as a result.
Milgate invited MPs to take a ride in his Western Star with him, so see just how bad the conditions of the roads are. Emma Kealy, Nationals MP for Lowan; and then deputy leader of the Victorian Nationals, Steph Ryan, who has since resigned; took him up on the offer. They spent over three hours in the cab as Milgate travelled from Minyip to Donald, north to Morton Plains and along the Warracknabeal-Birchip Rd, then from Warracknabeal back to Minyip. Earlier this year, Guy was also behind a three-month campaign to find Victoria’s worst roads, where road users, including truckies could submit road condition reports.
“Decades of neglect has left Victoria’s roads rough and potholed, risking the lives of motorcyclists, car drivers and truckies every single day,” he said.
The top 10 most dangerous roads as identified through the ‘Victoria’s worst roads’ survey, which would be prioritised under the package are:
Great Alpine Road
Princes Highway (various locations)
Murray Valley Highway (various locations)
Western Freeway (various locations)
Jerusalem Creek Road