THE state government has "announced" eight new roadside stopping areas on the Princes Highway between Stratford and Bairnsdale, where safety barriers have been installed, but a Gippsland MP has labelled new stopping bays as "old news".
At the Sale roads forum on Tuesday night, Minister for Roads, Road Safety and the TAC Jaala Pulford took the opportunity to announce six new stopping areas would be installed on the Melbourne-bound side of the highway and two new bays on the Bairnsdale-bound side of the highway.
The installation of the new pull-over areas, which will be large enough to accommodate trucks, is expected to begin in October and be completed by the end of December.
The entirety of the works, including the installation of barriers between Providence Ponds and Bairnsdale and final road sealing, is due to be completed early next year.
Ms Pulford said Regional Roads Victoria had also undertaken a thorough risk assessment, and had revised where roadside barriers would be installed - only in high-risk areas in the remaining section of works between Providence Ponds and Stratford.
"There's parts of the road where barriers were planned, where barriers will now not go in, because there's not really anything to hit," she told the Gippsland Times.
"There'll be shorter stretches where clumps of trees or other structures are, and then there will be some bits that won't need to go in, following community feedback.
"With the saving from that, we're going to do some rearranging and reallocating within the existing project budget, so there'll be eight additional roadside stopping bays between Stratford and Bairnsdale ... every three or four kilometres."
Gippsland East MLA Tim Bull, who also attended the forum, said Ms Pulford's announcement was simply the re-announcement of a commitment he secured in early June.
He said he drove the highway with Regional Roads Victoria staff on June 7, and was given commitments for no side barriers to be installed on about 25 kilometres of eastbound road (where they were planned to go), more truck and car pull over areas to be installed where there are side barriers, increased visibility at driveways and intersections by removing some barriers already installed adjacent to these areas and the removal of old ripple strips that cause vibrations to be fixed.
"This was outlined in a media release issued from my office back on June 7," he said.
"Unfortunately the ripple strips and hazardous intersections still remain, but as far as the pull over areas are concerned, these were demanded by the public and agreed to by the department some 10 weeks ago following my meeting.
"We even identified a couple of locations where roadside barriers could possibly go as we drove along.
"The Andrews Labor government is quite good at re-announcing things to give the impression it is listening and this appears to be another case of that occurring."
The Gippsland Times ran an article titled 'Highway plans modified' by Liz Bell on June 14, 2019, which directly quoted Regional Roads Victoria chief regional roads officer Paul Northey speaking on the "refined" plans.