Sale Alternative Truck Route projects part of infrastructure review

Stefan Bradley

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester says roadside signs have disappeared from the Sale Alternative Truck Route, raising concerns over a $6.2 million funding commitment. Photo: Contributed

The Department of Transport and Planning (DTP) has confirmed the strengthening of two bridges along the proposed Sale Alternative Truck Route are included in the federal government’s 90-day infrastructure review.

The federal government has been undertaking a 90-day review of its Infrastructure Investment Program. The proposed route, also known as the Sale Alternative Route, is a state government project, but the federal government is funding the strengthening of the two bridges.

The two bridges – the Thomson Bridge and Stirling Bridge – will be strengthened to accommodate load limits of up to 100 tonnes.

The proposed route aims to provide a quicker route for vehicles travelling between Melbourne and East Gippsland. It’s a shorter route and avoids traffic delays and intersections through Sale.

The DTP has confirmed these bridge projects are part of this review but said the Sale Alternative Truck Route remains in the planning stage, with the route to be finalised.

Regional advocacy body One Gippsland lists the Sale Alternative Truck Route as a 2023 ‘regional priority project’ that is ‘shovel ready’.

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester says he was worried the multi-million dollar project to strengthen the bridges will be abandoned by the federal government.

“We were supposed to see $6.2 million worth of funding from the previous federal government spent this year on bridge strengthening work to allow heavier vehicles to safely use the alternate route around Sale, but now the signs advertising the project have been removed,” Mr Chester said.

“The Federal Minister for Transport Catherine King announced a 90-day review of the infrastructure investment program almost 200 days ago, and she can’t even deliver that on time.

“Every project that had attracted federal government funding, but work hadn’t started, has been stalled across Australia, including about $30 million worth of road projects in Gippsland because of this so-called review.”

Federal Infrastructure Minister Catherine King is understood to be in discussions with the states about which projects will need to be axed. She has previously criticised the former Coalition federal government infrastructure announcements, saying they were made without proper consultation with the states or the required funding.

As part of the Sale Alternative Truck Route, the DTP is also developing plans to upgrade three intersections with roundabouts.

DTP says roundabouts are the safest intersection layout, potentially reducing fatal and serious injury crashes by up to 85 per cent.

These intersection upgrades are currently being planned and are yet to be funded for construction.

A Wellington Shire Council spokesperson said they couldn’t comment on the Sale Alternate Truck Route’s timeline and status as it’s managed by the state government.

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester says roadside signs have disappeared from the Sale Alternative Truck Route, raising concerns over a $6.2 million funding commitment.

“Wellington Shire Council acknowledges the importance of the Sale Alternate Truck Route in improving Gippsland’s regional road network and supports the timely continuation of the project through the Victorian Government,” the spokesperson said.

“Despite the state government’s prolonged review, Council understands that background work on the bridge strengthening project has been ongoing and, subject to the outcome of the review, is ready to move forward, following these unforeseen delays.”

Beth Liley, Executive Director at DTP, said they’ll continue to engage with community and stakeholders on the Sale Alternative Truck Route.

“We are continuing to work with the Wellington Shire to plan for the proposed Alternative Truck Route for Sale, which will provide a safer and more efficient journey for road users,” she said.

“We’re engaging with stakeholders and the community about this project and will continue to provide updates as it progresses.”

Mr Chester said the Sale Alternative Truck Route should be a top priority for the state and federal governments.

“Investing in better and safer regional roads will save lives and also improve productivity for our freight sector while boosting the visitor economy,” he said.