The state and federal governments awarded a contract for the Western Highway duplication between Buangor and Ararat on Monday, a major milestone for a project plagued by delays.
Wannon MP Dan Tehan and Deputy Prime Minister and Infrastructure Minister Banranby Joyce announced the contract on Tuesday.
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.
A joint venture between CPB Contractors and Seymour Whyte Constructions has secured the contract to build a 12.5-kilometre duplication of the Western Highway between Buangor and Ararat.
“In partnership with the Victorian Government, the overarching project will see $659.7 million invested in building a dual-lane highway between Melbourne and Adelaide. The improved highway will make travel safer for all drivers and more efficient for heavy freight vehicles,” Mr Joyce said.
Mr Tehan said construction was expected to start in March and take around two years to complete.
“This is a fantastic milestone for the project which has already seen 55 kilometres of the highway duplicated west of Ballarat,” Mr Tehan said.
Victorian Roads Minister Luke Donnellan said the contract announcement was another sign of progress on the project and an important step in building safer roads throughout the state.
“There were 91 crashes between Ballarat and Stawell in the five-year period to June 2017, including eight fatalities and 51 serious injuries – tragic figures which both the federal and state governments are determined to help reduce through our investment in these sorts of improvements,” Mr Donnellan said.
State Western Victoria MP Jaala Pulford said the project would create a safer and more efficient four-lane divided route.
“Construction will include a new bridge over the railway line, two new bridges over the Hopkins River, additional turning lanes and an interchange with entry and exit ramps at Hillside Road,” Ms Pulford said.
Some pre-construction work, including fence construction, will be completed over the next few weeks. The Australian Government has committed $499.3 million and the Victorian Government $160.3 million to the overall Western Highway duplication between Ballarat and Stawell.
Many residents have been waiting for the work to being, hoping to see improve safety and convenience along the highway from Buangor.
Other residents have fought to change the preferred route of the new highway lanes for environmental or Indigenous cultural reasons, with Keep Original Route Supporters attempting to block the project in the Supreme Court.
Last month Roads Minister Luke Donnellan said the project had been “a long time coming”.
“This has been a frustrating process, especially for many people in the community and a frustrating process for me,” he said.
“We have been through a torturous planning process and it has been difficult but we have got through and we will now start the construction and get this road going.”
VicRoads will run an information session on the highway duplication project from 1pm-8pm on February 7 at Ararat RSL, 74-76 High Street, Ararat.
VicRoads north western projects manager Steve Pattinson said residents and landowners would be able to meet with the project team to ask questions before work begins.
“This will be a great opportunity for the community to meet with the project team and to lean about the planned works and what this will mean for them over the coming months,” Mr Pattinson said.
Section 2B between Buangor and Ararat will see the highway duplicated to two lanes in each direction with additional turning lanes, a new bridge over the railway line, two new bridges over Hopkins River and an interchange at Hillside Road with entry and exit ramps.
Construction was expected to take about two years.