Victorian Roads Minister Luke Donnellan turned the first sod for the long-awaited duplication of the Western Highway from Buangor to Ararat on Thursday.
The $42 million contract to duplicate 12.5 kilometres of the highway was awarded in February to a joint venture of multinational company CPB Contractors and Sydney-based firm Seymour Whyte Constructions.
The project was expected to take about two years to complete, with rolling works up and down the stretch of highway until mid-2020.
Mr Donnellan gathered with VicRoads staff and project contractors for the official start of construction just off the divide where the highway lanes converge.
“Early next week, work will begin on the duplication of this section of the highway, which will have great benefits to the local community,” Mr Donnellan said.
“It’s incredibly well-supported by the councils, including local MPs.
“We know this is vital for the freight industry and this is a road that is littered with accidents and loss of life.”
The duplication is being funded from a partnership between the state and federal government that will see $660m spent on creating a fully dual-lane highway between Melbourne and Adelaide.
VicRoads project director Nigel Powers gave assurances that the work would be of the highest possible quality in light of the rapid degradation of new lanes of the Western Highway at Trawalla.
Earlier this year, contractors were forced to tear up a 26km section of the road between Burrumbeet and Beaufort and repair the surface at their own cost.
Activists have staged an 11th hour effort to save trees in the path of the duplication over concerns that they might have Indigenous cultural value.
Mr Powers said there had been a rigorous assessment of these trees by Aboriginal Victoria, which included field inspections with Traditional Owners.
“Aboriginal Victoria determined that VicRoads could proceed with the duplication,” he said.