Weather extremes adds challenge to highway project

MOST people drive on them every day without thinking twice about how they are made.

The construction of roads is one of the most important components of maintaining our modern, fast-moving lives, and the Western Highway duplication project to Stawell is among the biggest road projects in the state.

More than 5000 vehicles use the road each day, of which about one third are trucks and commercial vehicles.

With those figures in mind, it’s crucial that the duplication works – which will separate traffic travelling in opposite directions and therefore  avoid head-on collisions – are completed at the highest standard possible.

The construction process is highly complex, beginning with extensive earthworks followed by structures such as bridges before the roads are paved and sealed.

VicRoads Western Highway Project senior engineer Sam Brown said the duplication of the Western Highway was particularly challenging.

“Rain and wet weather are the main enemies here,” he said.

“It definitely slows us down with the earth works and the pavement layers.

“If you’re getting rain, or conversely really hot days, that can impact us a lot, so we’re at the mercy of the weather to a certain extent.

“In this area we have quite a narrow and defined sealing window and if we get bad weather it can push the timeframe out of that window.”

At present, most of the construction is happening between Burrumbeet and the edge of Beaufort, but works got under way long before that phase started.

“There was quite a bit of service relocation,” Mr Brown said.

“They had to re-align both Telstra and Optus fibre optic cables as well as approximately 20 kilometres of powerlines.”

Plus there was the acquisition and ultimate removal of several homes.

Mr Brown said traffic management was also an important factor.

“Being a major highway we can’t say ‘close it, go away come back in two years’,” he said.

“You’ve got to make sure first of all that it’s safe for workers and drivers and also that we don’t delay traffic as much as possible.”

Mr Brown said that like most major roads, the Western Highway duplication was being built for a minimum 30-year life.

By contrast, bridges and other structures should last 100 years, he said.

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