I wish to raise a matter for the attention of the Minister for Roads and Road Safety, and the action I seek is that the minister ensure that planning for a heavy vehicle bypass at Rutherglen be progressed as a matter of priority.In the lead-up to the last federal election the Australian government announced substantial new investments in land transport infrastructure in Benambra, including $4 million for the Kiewa Valley Highway upgrade and $2 million to undertake planning for the Rutherglen bypass.
The $2 million for Rutherglen is specifically for planning to deliver a viable long-term route for heavy vehicles. The Victorian government has announced that it has agreed to match the funding for these projects. The federal government funding for Rutherglen will be released once the planning project is ready to commence.
The Indigo Shire Council is very keen to progress this planning. The need for a heavy vehicle detour in Rutherglen has been a perennial issue for residents, politicians and governments, but recent developments have exacerbated the problem. The creation of a regional Woolworths distribution centre, the relocation of the Wodonga cattle saleyards and the development of the Wodonga TAFE driver training centre, all located at Barnawartha, have been drivers in jobs and growth for the region, but a number of heavy vehicles are now using the town’s narrow thoroughfare. A major rail freight siding has now also begun operations and potentially will add to the heavy vehicle traffic.
Constituents in Rutherglen and visitors to the area are concerned for their safety when getting in and out of their cars or simply crossing the street. A recently imposed 40-kilometre-an-hour speed limit has had little effect on mitigating the problem. Main Street, Rutherglen, was designed for horses and buggies, not B-doubles. Indigo shire is very keen to impress on all the importance and the need for the release of some funds for interim works to get some trucks out of Main Street, Rutherglen.
Residents and tourists deserve this project to be progressed. A full report by Aurecon, commissioned by Indigo shire and VicRoads in 2010 shortlisted four alternate routes and considered environmental, social, economic and transport issues for all four options. The findings of part one of the study were presented to the Rutherglen community on 10 June 2009. It has been almost eight years, and there have been changes of government, but the statutory bodies have been working progressively on this issue.
Now that announcements have been made about financial commitments, that is certainly a positive step in the right direction for all governments over the last eight years. The Rutherglen community feels that the matter keeps ending up in the too-hard basket, and I look forward to the response from the minister.