A MAJOR statewide campaign aimed at improving the safety of the Western Highway, including ridding it of a notorious horror stretch, was launched yesterday.
Under the slogan "Highway8: Lifeblood of the State", the Western Action Committee (WHAC) has proposed a series of significant improvements to the highway, including two major works.
They are the Deer Park bypass, a freeway connecting the highway and Western Ring Road, and a deviation at Anthony's Cutting, a notoriously dangerous section of road outside Bacchus Marsh.
The committee comprises members of all 10 councils along the highway's Victorian length, plus representatives from VicRoads and safety groups.
"The Deer Park bypass is the most significant issue facing the highway at present," WHAC chairman Peter Russell said at the launch.
"The bypass would create a direct freeway standard link from the Western Highway to Melbourne's freeway network."
So far in the election campaign both major parties have committed to fund the 9.3km bypass when money becomes available.
However, Mr Russell said that was not good enough and this campaign emphasised the need for a more specific promise.
"When you're not in the funding stream and priority stream you can be easily bumped off," Mr Russell said.
"We have already been bumped off too many times."
The campaign also calls on the public to let the election candidates know the importance of the bypass.
"It's your highway, stand up for it, get involved," Mr Russell said.
City of Ballarat CEO John McLean also attended the launch and echoed his sentiments.
"We appreciate the general support the bypass has been given by the candidates but what we really need is a firm commitment to make this happen," Mr McLean said.
The Anthony's Cutting deviation would cost just $65 million and improve conditions on a major accident zone.
The benefits of these and other planned improvements, including upgrades in designated sections throughout the state, would be enormous, Mr Russell said. "Most Victorians living west of Melbourne are stakeholders in the Western Highway, and thus have a vital interest in its future support and standards," he said.