Election selection: Calls for asphalt spend to cope with growth

A comprehensive investment of more than $80 million is needed to help unclog Ballarat’s expanding road network and prepare for an imminent population spike. 

Peak hour: VicRoads is looking to address a suite of Ballarat's most congested traffic points, many of which are focused around the city's rapidly expanding west.  The Courier understands more than $80 million is needed for a complete road overhaul. Picture: Kate Healy

Peak hour: VicRoads is looking to address a suite of Ballarat's most congested traffic points, many of which are focused around the city's rapidly expanding west. The Courier understands more than $80 million is needed for a complete road overhaul. Picture: Kate Healy

The Bureau of Statistics’ 2016 census data revealed the city’s population to be over 101,000, a figure expected to expand to almost 140,000 by 2031. 

Key to this growth has been the greenfield expansion to the city’s south and west, with particular focus around the Lucas and Delacombe areas.  

“There’s a lot of demand at the moment for housing and people from Melbourne have their eyes on Ballarat,” Integra land development director Nick Grylewicz, who’s company is responsible for Lucas, told The Courier in April.  “The reason they come to the regions is they want to escape that apartment living lifestyle.”

However, with this growth has come a clear increase in use of some of the city’s key arterial roads. 

Across the past five years Ballarat-Carngham Road between Dyson Drive and Wiltshire Lane has experienced a 50 per cent increase in traffic, while usage of Sturt Street between Dyson Drive and Gillies Street has shot up 42 per cent.

Among a host of upgrades being considered are replacing the roundabout at the intersection of Ballarat-Carngham Road and Wiltshire Lane with traffic lights, new lights in front of the Delacombe Town Centre and a new roundabout at the Dyson Drive/Ballarat-Carngham Road intersection. 

Lights needed: Installing a new set of traffic lights near the Delacombe Town Centre is among the proposals.

Lights needed: Installing a new set of traffic lights near the Delacombe Town Centre is among the proposals.

To the city’s south Skipton Street (27 per cent) and Hertford Street (14 per cent) are also feeling the strain of an increased workload driven by population growth. 

Cash is being sought to build a roundabout at the Docwra Street/Midland Highway intersection in Sebastopol as well as extending extra lanes from Docwra to Queen Street. 

Plans are also underway to help streamline Gillies Street, Gregory Street and the Midland Highway in the city’s north.  

VicRoads western region director Mal Kersting said “our focus is making the roads locals in Ballarat rely on safer and more reliable and ensuring they are equipped to meet future demand”. 

However both the Roads Minister Luke Donnellan and opposition roads spokesperson David Hodgett will need to stump up the cash if this is to be achieved.  

While a piecemeal approach to these necessary upgrades could be carried out across years, The Courier understands an injection of more than $85 million would be needed to complete the city’s most pressing road projects. 

Roads Minister Luke Donnellan in Ballarat earlier this week. Picture: Lachlan Bence

Roads Minister Luke Donnellan in Ballarat earlier this week. Picture: Lachlan Bence

It’s by no means a small spend, but its an investment that suits the narrative of both sides of the chamber across three competitive electorates.   

The state government has been helping to encourage the city’s western growth through incentives like the abolition of stamp duty on property worth less than $600,000 and a $20,000 first home buyer’s grant for regional Victoria.   While the growth is self evident, the surrounding infrastructure needs to keep up.

Meanwhile the opposition has listed decentralisation as an election priority, labelling Daniel Andrews as the ‘Premier for Melbourne’.  If the attack is to stick, funding to help regional livability is a must.