NATIONALS Member for Western Victoria David O’Brien has rejected VicRoads’ preferred route option for the Western Highway Horsham bypass, which is under consideration by the State Government.
Mr O’Brien said he and Member for Lowan Hugh Delahunty would advocate for Option 2 – suggested by the community in 2008 – to be considered as the best long-term alignment for Horsham residents and the wider community.
Option 2 was one of 14 options developed in phase one of the bypass study in 2009.
VicRoads regional director Ewen Nevett told the Mail-Times in 2011 the option had been ruled out after independent consultant AECOM found it contradicted the project objectives to improve transport efficiency for heavy vehicles and the safety of motorists and pedestrians in Horsham.
In May last year, VicRoads selected Option B2 – which cuts through Riverside, north-east of the city – as its preferred option.
On June 30, the Mail-Times announced VicRoads was seeking State Government approval to put route Option B2 on public exhibition.
Mr O’Brien said he was surprised VicRoads made no reference to the ‘Dooen Intermodal’ option, originally called Option 2, which was the favoured option of many Horsham residents.
“This option, as originally proposed, leaves the existing alignment east of Green Lake, runs north along Drung South Road, crosses the Wimmera River and then along Longerenong Road and the Wail-Dooen Road to rejoin the highway at Wail,” he said.
“During the consultation process this was clearly identified as the community-preferred alignment, yet it was sought to be removed by VicRoads and its consultants from consideration early in the process without having regard to its merits or the community support for this option.”
“Add in the cost of improving public safety at Pimpinio and possibly Green Lake and it is difficult to see any cost disadvantage for Option 2.”
Mr O’Brien said the cost of constructing a bypass of such length was cited as a disadvantage.
“However, most of the existing alignment proposed to be retained in other options will have to be extensively rebuilt in conjunction with any bypass at some time in the future,” he said.
“Add in the cost of improving public safety at Pimpinio and possibly Green Lake – and the savings outlined above – and it is difficult to see any cost disadvantage for Option 2.”
Mr O’Brien said Option 2 had the added benefit of linking up with the Wimmera Intermodal Freight Terminal at Dooen.
“It makes efficient use of road and rail linkages, taking into account the Dooen WIFT and the commitment of the Victorian Coalition government to begin standardisation of the Mildura-Geelong rail line, a $220 million commitment,” he said.
“This option would provide the shortest travel time to Melbourne as well as lessening the impact on residents – avoiding the sensitive Riverside area – and reducing the construction and environmental costs of building a bypass through the heart of a floodplain.”
Mr Nevett said on Tuesday that VicRoads undertook a broad analysis of 14 alignment options in 2009 during the initial stages of community consultation.
“Among the options discussed and considered was Option 2,” he said.
“After extensive community consultation and planning investigations, VicRoads selected its preferred option in May 2013, based on the primary objectives of the planning study to improve road safety and freight efficiency.
“VicRoads understands the State Government is currently considering all options, including feedback from the Horsham community.”
Horsham Mayor David Grimble said council would meet Mr O’Brien and Mr Delahunty to discuss their decision to lobby for Option 2.
He said council had not selected a preferred option because it did not want to be seen favouring one section of the community over another.
“We wanted to allow the process to unfold,” he said.
“I understand the angst of the affected residents and council will support the community wherever we can.”