Lydiard Street was reopened with new heritage-style gates on May 4, 2001, and 20 years later, heritage advocates are asking why this can't happen once again.
A train crashed through the heritage-style swing gates in May last year, and 333 days later, the street is still closed to traffic.
A spokesperson said safety is the priority, and it's been noted several times there are layers of complexity for restoring the level crossing involving signalling.
However, back in the '90s, the University of Ballarat's electronic engineering department head Ray Martin and senior lecturer Graeme Hood faced a similar problem when the Public Transport Corporation sought to replace the swing gates with boomgates.
He said a truck had damaged the gates in 1990, and after years of consultation and technical investigations, the swing gates were reinstalled, and motorised with the same heritage mechanisms in place.
The new gates were officially opened on May 4, 2001, as an invitation from Ballarat West MP Karen Overington shows.
The invitation states the opening is for the "refurbished and automated" gates, though Mr Hood said they have never been automated - until the crash last year, the gates still required human supervision through CCTV to ensure the intersection was clear before the gates could close, and to ensure they were locked.
Mr Hood said he and Mr Martin wrote a detailed report in 1997 on how to reopen Lydiard Street, which included two viable options to retain the gates "without penalising the effective operations of the Public Transport Corporation railway system" - automating the gates' opening, or complete restoration with motorisation
He said their conclusions, based on measurements and weights of the gates and an analysis of traffic control measures, would still be applicable today and addressed several points made by Department of Transport engineers in recent visits to Ballarat.
For example, there's a detailed study on wind resistance, which engineers in February said could affect the safe locking closure of the gates.
"It took 10 years of working on this, we went to so many different hearings and the Minister's office," he said.
"I remember at one time we were able to prove the gates were far safer than booms or other gates
"They were always worried about the gates from the side (and traffic entering), so that's why there's the traffic lights, that's what got us over the line, that was Ray's idea."
The timing of the opening and closing of the gates has also been commented on by V/Line engineers, who said
Mr Hood said the gates should have been automated back in the '90s.
"Watching through CCTV, that's absolute rubbish, you do not need a stationmaster to press a button to open and close the gates," he said.
"They're tied up in 19th century technologies, they're absolutely stuck in the past - they could have automated those gates from day one.
"They're deliberately trying to not do this, this is the way they work.
"There's an accident, they close the crossing, and they just wait until people demand the crossing is reopened."
It's not known when a solution will be decided this time around, though the Department of Transport and V/Line are making clear signals the heritage gates will not return.
IN THE NEWS
Lovell Chen has been appointed as heritage consultants, and referred enquiries back to V/Line.
Heritage advocates have backed the City of Ballarat's call to return the gates as they were before the crash, saying they're a key part of the precinct's heritage value.
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