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EDITORIAL: Alternate road options critical

If we ever want to know why maintaining our secondary regional roads is important we need only consider what happens when traffic incidents and trauma close down our highways.

Diversions and detours are inevitable on busy interconnecting throughways such as the Western Highway and we must be in a position to keep traffic moving.

In the Wimmera, Mallee and Grampians fringe, where there is a convergence of several highways, there is always plenty of discussion and debate about ensuring these primary routes are up to scratch.

And rightfully so. The volume of traffic, including a procession of transports on the Western Highway between Melbourne and Adelaide, is seemingly unending.

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This traffic has to go somewhere if emergency-service activity or pressing roadwork forces a major diversion.

In a circumstance involving a fatal truck-trailer rollover on the Western Highway near Pimpinio earlier this month, much of the peak-time highway traffic between Dimboola and Horsham found itself on Blue Ribbon Road on the outskirts of Horsham. At one stage this rural connecting road and recognised bypass was the route for about 80 trucks every hour as well as other motorists. 

We will leave it up to the experts to determine whether the road and other similar secondary-road routes are safe enough for this type of diversion. What we do know is that they are traditionally considerably narrower with more exposed shoulders and deeper drop-offs than highways.

And, whether it’s driver error or something else, we’ve already seen a couple of incidents involving diverted traffic occurring on these types of roads.

Member for Lowan Emma Kealy said she believed there was a pressing need for closer examination of and more work on bypass roads for day-to-day as well as highway-diversion traffic.

She claimed the State Government had rejected a Regional Roads Victoria, ‘aka VicRoads’, recommendation that $50-million be spent on upgrading potential bypass routes, with Blue Ribbon Road high on the list of priorities.

We all know that road construction and maintenance is a financial sponge on the public purse. Roads cost all levels of government a fortune.

Whatever the circumstance, our primary public road networks across the state must maintain high levels of flexibility and safety.

Dual-carriageway work on the Western Highway, set to resume after a Federal Government cultural-heritage assessment of an area near Ararat, is good news.

A duplicated highway opens the door to a variety of traffic-flow alternatives.

But where there is a busy single-carriageway highway crossing the region, traffic diversions involve secondary or bypass roads that must be maintained at a high standard.

The entire July 24, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!