Highway upgrades continue

Ben McArthur

Work is still being completed under the bridge. Photos: Ben McArthur

RECENT flooding and bushfires have not caused any major delays on the Stage 3 Princes Highway East upgrade.

The Stage 3 upgrade adds 12 kilometres of dual lanes on the Princes Highway in addition to the 33kms already constructed in Stage 1 and 2 between Traralgon and Sale.

The construction also adds a new steel arch rail bridge at Kilmany.

The construction is part of the Big Build Initiative set up by the state government which aims to improve Victoria’s road and transport network.

It has been a long journey for the construction to get to this point, with Stage 1 begun in 2010, Stage 3 started in 2021.

The bridge has been mostly completed with V/Line train’s taking full advantage of the new upgraded bridge.

The opening of the bridge occurred three months ago when the first V/Line made its way across in late July.

On Monday, October 9, project engineers and employees gathered at the bridge to watch the steam train from Steamrail Victoria pass.

Senior project engineer Nicholas Wybo watches the steam train go past on the Kilmany Bridge.

The engineers eagerly looked on with their phones in hand to capture the monumental occasion.

But the engineers weren’t the only ones excited for the steam train, with many onlookers upon the train’s journey, including a curious cameraman who stopped his car on the side of Princes Highway, before being waved off by engineers.

Senior project engineer for the Kilmany Bridge, Nicholas Wybo watched the train pass and said the bridge design is fairly unique in this country.

“There’s two main components that make this bridge special. One is its span, the bridge spans 95-metres without any piers in the middle,” he said.

“The second thing is that we’ve built it about 25 metres off from its permanent position. If we were to build this bridge on site, we would have to shut down the train network for about six months.”

The 3200-tonne bridge was constructed off-site then relocated to its new position.

It is a long single-span, steel-arch bridge that uses a concrete bridge deck and a network of high-strength steel “hangers” that cross over each other.

It uses concrete, reinforcing steel, stress bars, post tension bars and tendons and a range of other materials and bridge components are being sourced from Victorian companies.

Under the bridge, the road is now being paved by about 110, UK construction company Laing O’Rourke employees.

Senior project engineer for the roads, Darcy Vanllier, said despite the weather, progress has not been significantly delayed and expects works to be completed around mid-next year.

“The site’s quite well set up to manage the water. So, there’s very little, very little water lying around today. The floods haven’t done a lot of damage to the road,” he said.

“We’ve got our environmental controls in place so it doesn’t take too long to be able to get up and running again even after big rain.

“There’s roughly four to five kilometres of roads left currently under construction.”

The new road was partly justified because of the safety concerns as the upgrades adds safety barriers and tactile edge line.

It will provide additional U-turn opportunities and add six intersections.

Senior project manager Allison Heskey has worked on high-class projects such as the Mount Hotham Airport and foundations of Docklands Stadium.

She said the project was very necessary as the old roads were insufficient.

“There was a lot of congestion in the really busy times like Easter Monday and times like that and the highway would almost be at a standstill,” she said.

“This has all the latest sort of safety design built into it, barriers and so forth, it is far safer than the old highway we had before which didn’t have any separation between the East and West bound traffic.

“The previous crash rate was unacceptably high.”

The bridge was built on an existing rail corridor owned by the state government.

The design was developed in consultation with the Department of Transport and Planning (DTP), V/Line and the local community to increase safety and reliability for freight, tourists and commuters.

Victoria’s Big Build is expected to cost $100 billion.

Many have criticised the initiative as unrealistic with Victoria’s current debt.

Project staff record the train going past.

Opposition leader John Pesutto, a critic of Victoria’s Big Build initiative, said after Daniel Andrews retired that his policies left Victoria with a massive debt burden.

“Victoria is broke and Victorians are being punished for his incompetence. Victoria has record debt approaching $200 billion,” he said.

“The cost of major projects has blown out by over $30 billion and we have seen unprecedented waste and mismanagement. Our roads are broken and our regions have been neglected.”