HEAVY machinery and earth moving equipment dig, lift and roll along the Western Highway, a clear sign of progress on the duplication works between Ballarat and Stawell.
The Ballarat to Burrumbeet section will be finished in a few weeks and VicRoads says the next section up to Beaufort should be complete by mid-2014.
But the works have not been all smooth sailing, with a 2.9km stretch of road east of Beaufort requiring rectification works after a temporary seal laid last June didn’t hold.
Forty-seven property owners have also lost part of their land, including four who lost homes.
Director of the Western Highway Project Mick McCarthy said progress was “going very well”, while acknowledging some hiccups.
He was particularly pleased with the start that construction company John Holland Group had made after Burrumbeet.
But the 2.9 kilometre section east from Beaufort will need to be resealed after a temporary seal – put on last June in hope of surviving the winter – created a series of small craters in the road’s surface.
“That seal didn’t hold as well as we would have liked, there were a lot of issues through winter,” Mr McCarthy said.
“But since November rectification works have taken place on the Melbourne-bound carriage and next week we’ll be doing rectification works on the Beaufort-bound lane.”
Mr McCarthy said acquiring land and negotiating compensation for landowners was a challenging and ongoing process, especially for those who lost their homes.
The $505 million project, which is jointly funded by the federal and state governments, involves planning all the way to Stawell but funds have only been provided for construction as far as Buangor, between Beaufort and Ararat.
The funding does not include construction of a bypass around Beaufort or Ararat, or detailed planning to determine a future route.
Pyrenees Shire mayor Cr Michael O’Connor said this was a critical omission.
“What we do have a slight disappointment with is that it still comes through as a single lane leading in and out of Beaufort,” he said. “We’re working hard to get VicRoads to get a planning permit for a bypass around Beaufort, which would be beneficial long-term.
“If you stand in the main street of Beaufort it’s fairly narrow and you’ve got a high volume of heavy transport going though.”
Cr O’Connor said that until a final bypass route was determined it would restrict the council’s ability to plan new suburbs and developments.
Western Highway Action Group chair Kevin Erwin said he was pleased with the progress but obtaining funding for the final part of the project was the goal now.
The project is 80 per cent funded by the federal government and 20 per cent by the state.