For Ballarat residents, 2018 will be the year where lofty promises from consecutive state budgets will begin to come to reality.
Hundreds of millions of dollars pledged in the 2016/17 and 2017/18 budgets will be put to use amid a flurry of construction.
Four years after the completion of Ballarat City Council’s Master Plan, the first stages of the Ballarat Station Precinct will be wrapped up by year’s end, with construction to begin on a 405-space car park on January 22. Stage one of construction will also see the development of an internal road at the station, linking the Lydiard Street North and Nolan Street entries.
Work on a $5 million bus interchange within the station precinct is also expected to be completed by the end of the year, taking domestic coaches away from the controversial temporary Lydiard Street North bay.
While the project is not without its detractors, Regional Development Minister Jaala Pulford said “every time I walk past or go through I look at the bluestone goods shed and I can’t wait for work to begin”.
For Ballarat commuters, 2018 will be a year where occasional interruption is coupled with improved reliability as elements of the Ballarat Line Upgrade begin to come into effect.
Later this month work will begin on duplicating 18 kilometres of track between Melton and Deer Park, a task expected to continue throughout the year.
The first of a suite of new passing loops along the line is expected to begin near Ballan in April, adding 4.5 kilometres of track. Meanwhile Ballan commuters can expect to see work at their station before the end of year, with a second platform set to come into use in 2019.
The $551.7 million pledge to the line was among the government’s biggest commitments to regional Victoria in the 2016/17 budget, reflecting the city’s growing commuter body.
“There will be some unavoidable impacts to services during the year with buses replacing trains to allow for construction work,” A spokesperson for Ms Pulford said.
Ballarat’s changing streetscape
The streetscape of central Ballarat is set to undergo a major face lift in the coming 12 months as a series of ambitious plans begin to change the way residents move across the city.
One of the city’s major thoroughfares in Mair Street is set to undergo dramatic $7 million upgrade in an effort to improve traffic flow, introducing dual lanes and improved intersections.
VicRoads undertook a comprehensive community consultation process after the initial announcement in April 2017 was met with significant backlash from traders along the street, upset at the dramatic loss of parking.
With work due to begin in March or April, shoppers and business owners alike will look on with interest to see how their feedback is implemented in the final design. Construction should be completed by mid-2019.
Meanwhile the state government will head into the November election with work underway on perhaps its most prominent commitment to Ballarat, GovHub.
Construction of the five-storey building behind Civic Hall is expected to begin by July or August and will take almost three years.
The $47.8 million project will eventually house 1000 public servants, and while Premier Daniel Andrews announced a suite of agencies and departments which would have a presence in Ballarat, the opposition has maintained its pledge to shift VicRoads’ headquarters up the freeway should it win government.
Ballarat cyclists may also see work on the early stages of a $9 million upgrade to CBD bicycle infrastructure, which will result in dedicated lanes down the centre of Sturt Street as well as well as along Drummond and Howitt streets.
“This is the biggest investment occurring simultaneously in Ballarat’s history,” Regional Development Minister Jaala Pulford said. “There will be some disruption and a lot of activity and we ask for community patience, but the opportunity that exists to have all this work occurring in concert is too good to pass up.”
Council construction agenda finish in sight
Ballarat City mayor Samantha McIntosh said “people will see events and vibrancy and a great deal of activity at the Civic Hall site” by year’s end.
The refurbishment is among the Ballarat City Council’s top priorities in a year where residents can expect to see major works across the municipality.
To the city’s west motorists and freight haulers alike can anticipate access to the completed Ballarat Link Road first stage. Drivers will be able to access the Ballarat-Ararat Railway overpass as well as a new roundabout at the realigned intersection of the Link Road and Blind Creek Road.
“It takes the heavy vehicles and truck traffic off our inner Ballarat streets and that’s what we need to happen,” Ballarat City chief executive Justine Linely said.
Meanwhile council is in the process of trying to extract a further $40 million from Spring Street to connect Remembrance Drive to the Midland Highway.
Female athletes also stand to be among the benefactors from council’s 2018 infrastructure works, with facilities at White Flat Reserve to undergo a $100,000 face lift in time for the 2019 football season.
The ground which has become the home of women’s football in Ballarat will receive new change rooms to encourage more girls to stay involved in sport. Work is also expected to take place on the oval’s grandstand.
“Women’s sport deserves and needs the same amount of investment funding as male dominated sports and that area has been a little bit neglected in the past but it’s definitely not now,” Ms Linley said.
Residents in the city’s south can expect to have access to a new and improved library in Sebastopol, the facilities first major upgrade in decades.
Almost $3 million is being spent on the Albert Street building to deliver more floor space, meeting rooms and new technology. While the library has been closed since late 2017, it is expected to reopen by mid-2018.
While plans remain up in the air, Cr McIntosh also said residents should expect to see work begin at the fernery in the Botanical Gardens.
So far $1.4 million has been allocated to the refurbishment, but council’s own architectural plan would cost $4 million.
“We have committed funding...so we will definitely be delivering that over the next couple of years,” Cr McIntosh said.