Saturday, February 12, 2011

wellington road works stopped, $’s put to rural roads

Report from the roundtable – 8 feb

Readers will recall the angst over planned construction of overtaking lanes on Wellington Rd (click here for the news story).

After considerable consultation about the project, Vic Roads are not progressing the works due to significant community opposition, safety concerns and significant vegetation removal. I was pleased to be able to move a motion to reallocate funding initially received for Wellington Road to a number of rural roads throughout the municipality.

Council initially received $8million for the project, some of which was spent on duplication works in the Cardinia Shire. The original funding came about as a result of a dubious survey of questionable validity by the then federal local member some time ago (from memory around 2005) which simply asked Latrobe residents if they ‘d like money spent on Wellington Road or the perennial favourite at the time, the Belgrave

The consultation process around the Wellington Road overtake lanes project unearthed some enormous safety concerns with residents highlighting the difficulty and danger in negotiating an even greater number of lanes of traffic in an 80kph zone. The project would have also had an enormous impact on vegetation, with the removal of trees and understorey in an area renowned for orchids and other important vegetation.

After reviewing the project Vic Roads made a sensible decision to halt the project. What that meant to the Shire was an allocation of federal funding to the tune of $5.5million in limbo. Officers were quick to contact the Federal Government to see if that money could be allocated to other roads in the shire.

Yarra Ranges Council was fortunate, the Federal Government were happy for us to use the money to target unsealed roads that support our rural industries.

It is a tremendous windfall gain for the Shire, an opportunity that happens rarely, that will allow us to seal various roads that support our rural industries, which will be of great benefit to those industries.

As part of the reallocation of funds I wanted to highlight the concerns raised by residents about turning left on to the various local side streets off Wellington Road, so ensured that council included as part of its motion a letter to VicRoads highlighting the safety and access issues and asking VicRoads to investigate improvements for residents.

Cr McRae highlighted some concerns about some roads not being included on the list and the order of roads on the list as well as the robustness of the shire’s assessment of rural roads and indicated she would not be supporting the motion.
Cr Templer highlighted that his constituency had asked him why there were no roads from O’Shannassy on the listing.

In closing I recognised that not every rural road supporting rural industries in the Shire could be sealed for $5.5million dollars and officers were constrained by short timelines and ease of construction. In my reply to Cr Templer I indicated that this matter first came before council on the 7th December 2010 and Cr Templer had ample opportunity to raise issues but he chose not to. I also recognised that Cr McRae had been trying to seek resolution around the Ryrie Ward roads for some time and had been clearly advocating for her community.

The vote was 8 councillors for and one against, with Cr McRae dissenting.

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