The state government will use its 2018/19 budget, due to be released next week, to fund Western Highway bypasses of Ararat and Beaufort.
The budget will include $98 million for planning and pre-construction of new bypasses on the Western Highway at Beaufort and Ararat, as well as $40 million to upgrade the Princes Highway West between Colac and the South Australian border.
Fairfax Media understands the pre-construction work to be funded will include include surveying, geotechnical works and service relocation.
Key sections of the Calder and Hamilton highways will be upgraded to improve safety, travel times and freight productivity.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the projects would improve safety.
“As someone who grew up in country Victoria, I know how important safe and reliable roads are for regional communities,” he said.
“This ground-breaking investment will upgrade regional roads right across the state – and for the first time give our regional road network the direct attention it deserves.”
Ararat Rural City acting mayor Gwenda Allgood said council needed to be heavily involved in the planning process to avoid economic damage to Ararat businesses and landowners.
“One of the things that we need to do is the moment is to push to be totally involved to get it right as we don’t want to see any decline in Ararat,” she said.
“We have to be totally positive with this and make sure we support our communities in the process.”
Ararat Rural City Councillors have previously raised concerns about potential economic damage from an Ararat bypass due to a loss of passing trade from the highway.
“As a council, we need to talk very strongly with the state government so that Ararat does not get left behind,” Cr Allgood said.
“Places like Beaufort are asking for a special fund to help them with the bypass and I think that we really need to be at the table with the state government.”
Cr Allgood said there was community concern about the potential for farms to be split up by the bypass.
“The information sessions held by VicRoads have been very strong and some good issues have been brought up,” she said.
Victorian Roads Minister Luke Donnellan said the state government was giving country Victorians safer and more reliable roads.
“Since coming to office we’ve doubled spending on road maintenance and we’re fixing hundreds of regional roads across the state,” he said.
Coalition roads spokesman David Hodgett said the premier was just “playing roads catch up after massive cuts”.
“In 2015, Daniel Andrews cut the $160 million Country Roads and Bridges program, condemning country roads to fall into dangerous disrepair,” Mr Hodgett said.
“On top of this, today’s announcement by Daniel Andrews was promised back in 2014 as part of Labor’s Project 10,000.
“Daniel Andrews has utterly failed to deliver for regional Victorians in the last three years and simply cannot be trusted.”
In February, the state and federal governments awarded a contract for the Western Highway duplication between Buangor and Ararat, a major milestone for a project plagued by delays.
The contract to duplicate 12.5 kilometres of the highway has been awarded to a joint venture with multinational company CPB Contractors and Sydney-based firm Seymour Whyte Constructions.