By Colin MacGillivray
Kilmore residents and politicians have admonished the State Government for its inaction on the Kilmore bypass, with little progression on the project for several years.
Member for Euroa Steph Ryan visited Kilmore last week to speak with residents about the lack of progress on the bypass.
In November last year the State Government announced $12 million for a roundabout at the intersection of the Northern Highway and Wandong Road that will eventually serve as an entry point for the bypass, but a northern alignment for the route has yet to be finalised.
Ms Ryan said the government’s inaction was hypocritical and politically motivated.
“Labor, back in 2014, came here with the Shadow Roads Minister and said the Coalition hadn’t done anything despite the fact that we’d funded the early works, the [environmental effects statement] was basically done, the project was ready to go and we were planning to fund it in that next term of government,” she said.
“After basically saying ‘you didn’t do anything in the four years you were in government’, they have now had seven years and nothing has happened.”
Ms Ryan questioned why the government had not allocated money for the bypass during a time when it was trying to support Victoria’s COVID-19 economic recovery by pumping money into infrastructure projects.
“In the context of the $6-plus billion they’re spending on the West Gate Tunnel or the billions they’re spending on the Melbourne Metro [Tunnel], the amount of money just in cost overruns on those projects could have built the bypass many times over,” she said.
“I really want them to commit to it this year while they’re still spending billions of dollars. They borrowed something like $26 billion to keep the economy stimulated and to fund big projects, so why would you not fund this?”
At this month’s Mitchell Shire Council meeting, councillors roundly condemned the government’s lack of commitment to the bypass.
Cr Rob Eldridge said a bypass would be ‘the making of Kilmore’, while Cr Nathan Clark described the project as ‘long overdue’.
“The advantages that would come out of a bypass would have been evident to anyone who went to the busking championship … which was absolutely fantastic apart from the occasional drowning out of all buskers by the trucks cruising through town,” he said.
“One of the great advantages that the community needs to be aware of is that it will unlock the economic development potential of Kilmore. We’ll see a walkable main street, we’ll have businesses thriving and it will be fantastic for the locals.”
Cr Annie Goble said council would continue to advocate to the government for funding.
“The most imperative thing is the State Government needs to immediately appoint an independent planning panel to make a decision on the final route of the northern end of this western loop around Kilmore,” she said.
“There is no reason why a panel cannot be appointed now or soon, and then the community can have input to that independent panel and we can have a final route decided and move on with this thing.
“It’s embarrassing for the government, and I’m so surprised that with all the wonderful projects they brought together for the stimulation of jobs with COVID that this desperately needed project was not brought about at that time.”
Member for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes said Regional Roads Victoria was in the process of preparing planning approvals for the project.
She said the Northern Highway-Wandong Road roundabout was an important component of the bypass project and that detailed planning, surveying and other preparatory works were underway to enable to the construction of the roundabout.
“I know how important this project is to many in the Kilmore community – to keep the roads safer and reduce traffic through the centre of the growing town,” she said.
“I’ve always been a strong advocate for this project and the Kilmore community can be reassured that I’ll continue to push for it.
“Work is ongoing to progress components of the project and it’s pleasing to see that the Wandong Road roundabout is progressing.”
Ms Ryan described the government’s assurance it was planning the project as a smokescreen.
“Every time I ask where it’s at, they say they’re planning this or that section. How many years do you have to plan for?” she said.
“At the end of the day you have to make some decisions and get on with it, and they hide behind a planning process that just goes on and on forever.”