Duplication, finally

THE federal and state governments have unlocked more than $250 million in funding for the Princes Highway, putting its duplication between Sale and Traralgon for completion in 2024.

Deputy Prime Minister and federal Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Minister Michael McCormack said the duplication would realise a whole-of-corridor vision for the highway by completing the remaining Flynn and Kilmany sections of the duplication.

“Completing the full duplication of the Princes Highway between Traralgon and Sale is a crucial and long-awaited milestone in getting both Gippslanders and visitors to this beautiful region home sooner and safer,” he said.

“That is why I am delighted to be signing off on the Australian government’s $202.6 million commitment, which allows us to get on with the job of delivering this improvement for road safety, community access and tourism – in part due to a $70.6 million injection announced in July as part of the government’s stimulus package for Victoria.

“This continues our long-running partnership with the Victorian government, which has already delivered stages one and two of the Traralgon to Sale upgrade.”

State Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan said the Victorian government had committed $50 million to jointly fund completion of the duplication.

“Duplication of these remaining two sections at Flynn and Kilmany will save lives and prevent serious injuries for the thousands of drivers that rely on this section of the Princes Highway,” she said.

“This upgrade will also reduce delays during peak holiday season and busy commuting times, which will be welcome news for frustrated local residents and industry, particularly given anticipated increases in freight traffic.

“Completing the duplication will also help activate the entire Princes Highway corridor, supporting population growth, our regional economy and local jobs.”

Gippsland MHR Darren Chester welcomed the funding confirmation, which will pave the way for construction to begin next year.

“This funding injection will deliver considerable improvements, including upgrades to the 8.1-kilometre section at Kilmany from east of Maffra-Rosedale Rd, Nambrok, to the west of Sale-Cowwarr Rd, Fulham,” he said.

“The Flynn section will upgrade a further 4km from east of Sheepwash Creek Rd to the west of Flynn’s Creek Rd.

“Works will include construction of a four-lane divided carriageway with 10 to 15-metre-wide medians, intersection upgrades, guardrail and wire safety rope installation, drainage improvements and property access upgrades.”

Eastern Victoria MLC Jane Garrett said the funding would boost safety for people travelling between Sale and Traralgon.

“This upgrade is all about making the Princes Highway safer for everyone travelling through Gippsland,” she said.

Various tender milestones will continue over the coming months ahead of the expected awarding of the construction contract in mid-2021.

Mr Chester said the duplication would improve productivity for transport companies and other businesses that relied on this important highway through Gippsland to reach Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra.

“Importantly, this is a significant investment of government money into our region at a time when we are recovering economically from the coronavirus pandemic, the summer bushfires and several years of drought,” he said.

“A project of this size will create valuable opportunities for Gippsland contractors and suppliers, who in turn support local jobs in the construction sector.”

The project has been going on for more than a decade and stalled in recent years.

Earlier this year, a fruiting apple tree on what was previously farmland, fenced off in readiness for the unfinished duplication, became a stark reminder of how long the project had dragged on.

Last year, the Gippsland Times published an April Fool’s Day article, reporting that farmers had grown so tired of waiting for the duplication work to be completed that they had got to work on the project themselves using agricultural machinery.