Concern over roads fund

By Patrick Tansey

The Victorian Farmers Federation is calling for more to be done to fix the unacceptable state of rural and regional roads amid concerns the Better Roads Victoria Fund will not address the infrastructure deficit facing the state’s country network.

The 2018-19 Victorian Budget allocated $941million in an attempt to fix Victoria’s regional road network.

However, the VFF is concerned the move does little more than re-brand the Better Roads Victoria Trust Account, which has existed since 1979 and already receives funds from traffic camera and speeding fines.

While the new legislation is more specific about the types of roads the money will be spent on, and ensures at least 33 per cent of the funding will be used for country roads, the VFF is not convinced it will be enough to solve the problems facing the regional and rural network.

‘‘Renaming an existing trust account will not address the years of neglect for Victorian country roads,’’ VFF president David Jochinke said.

‘‘While the new arrangements might amount to slightly more money for country roads, there is still a huge road infrastructure deficit in rural and regional Victoria.’’

Moira Shire Council is not as apprehensive about the new fund, saying key areas of council priority such as works on the Murray Valley Hwy are being made a reality under it.

The Murray Valley Hwy has one of the highest numbers of crashes per kilometre of all rural highways in Victoria.

The past decade has seen a significant increase in traffic volumes and an increase in crashes on the road.

In the five-years to December 2016, the Echuca to Yarrawonga section of the highway experienced 100 crashes, with seven fatalities, 32 serious injuries and 61 other injuries.

‘‘We have registered our concerns regarding the condition of the Murray Valley Hwy over a number of years,’’ a Moira Shire Council spokeswoman said.

The shire welcomed a $20million state and Federal government investment to upgrade the highway from Echuca to Yarrawonga.

Several projects are currently being carried out by VicRoads as part of the Murray Valley Hwy safety upgrade.

Shoulder sealing in Nathalia will widen shoulders between Katunga-Picola Rd and Morris Rd/Muntz Rd. This is expected to be completed by October.

Shoulder sealing in Cobram will widen shoulders between Ritchie Rd and Goulburn Valley Hwy in October. This is expected to be completed by December.

VicRoads has also identified several areas in Moira Shire where works may be undertaken in the future.

They include intersection improvements at Katunga-Picola Rd, Picola; Lonergan Rd, Cobram East; and Benalla-Yarrawonga Rd, Yarrawonga, and further shoulder sealing works at Ritchie Rd, Cobram South and Punt Rd, Cobram.