WESTERN Highway Action Committee members will lobby Transport Minister Terry Mulder on Tuesday in an ongoing fight for money to complete the highway’s duplication.
Committee chairman, Northern Grampians Shire Mayor Kevin Erwin, said the meeting was timely in light of Wednesday night’s horrific double fatality at the Black Range, near Stawell.
He said improved safety was one of the reasons Northern Grampians had joined forces with nine other municipalities to lobby for the duplication.
As well as separating traffic lanes, duplication would result in sealed road shoulders, safety barriers, protected turning lanes, intersection improvements and service lanes for local access at some locations.
Cr Erwin said finishing the duplication was the group’s highest priority.
“The planning is all done, so if the project is to be funded then we could be ready to start work by summer next year,” he said.
“I know money is tight but we’re not asking for it all at once, it could be done in stages.
“We’ve got our fingers crossed they can find it in the State Budget.”
Cr Erwin said the Western Highway duplication was originally funded in three stages: Burrumbeet to Beaufort; Beaufort to Ararat; and Ararat to Stawell.
The committee was disappointed to discover in January the work would finish about 50 kilometres from Stawell because of a funding shortfall.
About $250 million is needed to extend the project past Buangor as planned.
Committee members will meet Mr Mulder in Parliament house at 5pm on Tuesday.
“We are grateful that he’s squeezed us in before Christmas,” Cr Erwin said.
“We’re sure he’s just as upset as anyone else that this tragedy has occurred.
“You can never say 100 per cent an accident like this would have been avoided with a dual carriageway, but it certainly would have helped considering it was a head-on collision.”
Cr Erwin said the tragedy served as a reminder for all drivers to take care on the roads, particularly in the lead-up to the busy holiday period.