Along the major roads of Warrenheip, Buninyong and the far-flung suburbs in Ballarat's west, the consequences of surging growth across the city commonly collide with years of neglect or sustained underfunding into Ballarat's arterial road network.
In all of these areas, traffic is becoming dependably uncongenial, if not dangerous - at least for those who frequent the highway intersections in Warrenheip and Buninyong - leading to climbing community angst at the city's lagging road infrastructure.
"As a council, we're frustrated, not just in Buninyong but across the whole city," said City of Ballarat councillor Ben Taylor at a community meeting in Buninyong last week.
"There are many roads that Regional Roads Victoria and the [state] government need to take responsibility for - we're years behind where we should be."
To buttress this view, Cr Taylor cited an independent study prepared for VicRoads in 2007 - the Ballarat Roads Transport Strategy - which he said to this day continues to largely underpin the infrastructure priorities of Regional Roads Victoria with respect to Ballarat.
Using population forecasts, the study sets out a series of transport strategies, like the Link Road, which are intended to meet the future needs of the city as it expands.
The only difficulty, of course, is that population growth across the city in recent years has wholly outpaced those rosy predictions, with the city's current population of around 115,000 residents placing it some 10 years ahead of schedule.
"The [state] government just isn't keeping up with infrastructure," Cr Taylor told The Courier. "We're a growing city and Regional Roads Victoria are sticking their heads in the sand, not wanting to deal with it."
"And this is my concern: when is this investment in roads that Ballarat desperately needs going to happen?"
Mayor Daniel Moloney said it was sentiment shared by council, which had recently met with and written to the state Roads Minister, Ben Carroll, requesting the Victorian government fund a new integrated roads and transport strategy.
"We need an overarching vision as to how we move people across the city in coming decades," he said, likening it to the visibility once afforded by the old Melways, which would demarcate or plot future arterial routes on its maps.
"One of the key things we'd like to see from that is a staged approach as to how we deliver a range of transport needs across both public transport and roads across the next 20 years," he added, noting this would encompass such projects as the Link Road, both the Warrenheip overpass and possible Buninyong bypass, as well as the city's bus network.
"The integrated strategy would identify where a range of different priorities like Buninyong and Warrenheip sit in the mix, so that there's a progressive roll-out of critical infrastructure over time.
"The community needs this level oversight or transparency in planning - if [the strategy] identifies a need, we should get on with it."
It's a development likely to be welcomed by the Warrenheip community, which resolved at its Wednesday evening meeting to advocate long-term for the freeway upgrade at the Old Melbourne and Brewery Tap roads highway intersection.
A common refrain at the meeting was that it shouldn't take a death, let alone an avoidable death, to force the hand of government.
"The government really needs to step up and take it on as a priority," said Kirilly Liddle, secretary of Committee 4 Warrenheip. "We don't want it to become a priority when there's a fatality there - we want it to be a priority now."
"We know it can be done, because VicRoads acquired all the land there over 20 years ago; it's just a matter of when.
"If they're not willing to do the overpass, they'll have to look at alternatives to prevent people from having accidents and potentially dying."
With an election on the horizon and a forecast population of 185,000 by 2041, pressure on the state government to properly acknowledge what's truly at stake across Ballarat is beginning to brew.
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