By Colin MacGillivray

Progress on a Kilmore bypass looms as a key state election battleground locally, with the Liberal-Nationals coalition pledging $300 million for the project at a public meeting last week.

More than 150 people packed Kilmore Soldiers Memorial Hall on Wednesday night to voice their frustrations at the lack of progress on a Northern Highway bypass, which was first proposed more than 20 years ago.

Shadow Minister for Public Transport and Roads Danny O’Brien, Member for Euroa Steph Ryan, Member for Northern Victoria Wendy Lovell and Euroa candidates Brad Hearn, Liberal, and Annabelle Cleeland, Nationals, all attended the meeting after pledging $300 million for the bypass if elected next month.

Mitchell Shire Council chief executive Brett Luxford said regardless of which party formed government, council wanted a guarantee that the State Government would complete stage one of the project – finalising a public acquisition overlay, PAO, for land purchase along the entire bypass route – by 2026.

“We’ve had governments who have made promises and they haven’t been delivered. We’ve had funding commitments and they haven’t been realised,” he said.

“We really need to get some bite-sized deliverables that the State Government can actually deliver.

“We think the time is now for the Kilmore bypass. There is no other town like Kilmore with this population and a main street that acts as a highway as well.

Council strategic planning manager Travis Conway said the implementation of a public acquisition overlay was an important first step that would help finalise the northern alignment of the bypass to Kilmore’s west.

“The section to Willowmavin Road is largely fixed, and the PAO is likely to reflect that alignment. The largest uncertainty at the moment is heading north and how to connect to the Northern Highway,” he said.

“I understand there are two or three alignments being considered and they are likely to come through once the Department [of Transport] has undertaken their investigations.

“Kilmore bypass is the most important piece of road infrastructure to support Kilmore’s growth. Kilmore is projected to grow from its current population of 10,500 to over 20,000 people by 2041.”

Mr O’Brien said the government had ignored the project to the detriment of Kilmore and the surrounding region.

“There are businesses closing in the street partly because of the truck noise and extra traffic … [Kilmore] needs a main street that is a main street, not a highway,” he said.

“Frankly, if [Minister for Transport Infrastructure] Jacinta Allen dropped $300 million on a project in Melbourne, she wouldn’t bother to pick it up because that’s the sort of waste they’ve had.

“There has been $28 billion of overspends on big projects in Melbourne, and yet Kilmore hasn’t been able to get this project under a Labor government.”

Ms Ryan, who has advocated for the project as an opposition member for the past eight years, said she had become convinced the project would never happen unless there was a change in government.

“In the last eight years [the government has] conceived, planned, started and almost finished the West Gate Tunnel, they are shovelling dirt on the North East Link, they’re building the Melbourne Metro [Tunnel] and they say that they haven’t had enough time to build a regional bypass. It is an absolute joke,” she said.

Ms Cleeland and Mr Hearn said the project’s importance to Kilmore residents had become evident during their campaigning.

“We’ve door-knocked a few of the businesses throughout the main street, who have unanimously supported this investment,” Ms Cleeland said.

“The crumbling buildings [on Sydney Street] are a sign that while B-doubles are coming down here, people are not investing in their shop fronts because there is no motivation to while it is deteriorating at such a pace.”

Mr Hearn said his brother had attended Assumption College in Kilmore and spoke about the problems created by frequent heavy traffic.

“[A bypass] is something that doesn’t just benefit Kilmore, but it benefits all of our regional communities, making sure that our roads, which are disgusting, get the investment and love that they need to be safe,” he said.

Minister for Roads and Road Safety Ben Carroll fired back at the opposition, saying the coalition had a track record of failing to follow through on previous road funding commitments, and questioned the $300 million costing of the project.

“Time and again the Liberal and National parties make promises we know they cannot and will not keep – their track record when it comes to roads is cuts, cuts, cuts,” he said.

“We know how important this project is to the Kilmore community which is why we’re continuing our work to progress the final design, formal planning and approval process.

“Given the planning and design phase is still underway and no business case has been complete, it is impossible for the opposition to confidently allocate $300 million to a project of this scale.”

Mr Carroll said Regional Roads Victoria was obtaining planning approval to finalise a northern alignment of the bypass that would minimise impacts on the nearby Kilmore Wastewater Management Facility.

Several community members spoke at Wednesday night’s meeting, expressing an array of views on the project.

Former Wallan-Kilmore Bypass Group secretary Wendy Law said she remained opposed to a western bypass route and wanted the government to reconsider an alternative option, but Mr Luxford and Ms Ryan said it would be detrimental to the project.

“I would urge you not to go back as a community and re-prosecute the route. If the community splits, there is more reason for the current government to say ‘the community doesn’t know where it wants to go, so we can kick the can down the road,” Ms Ryan said.

“What we have to do is be political about this. I’m not saying vote one way or the other … let’s write letters to the editor and email those government politicians who are not putting money into this.”

Pyalong resident Fr Paul Walliker favoured a more direct form of action.

“Why don’t we just put cars across the road on a long weekend and get the media to come up here? That’s the only way politicians will listen,” he said.

“Until the people of this community … start doing things in a way that causes fuss and causes discomfort, we’re going to get nowhere.”

2 COMMENTS

  1. Just wool gathering, and I expect to be shot down horrifically (and ponder whether the idea has been floated before?) – what if, instead of a by-pass, we were to move the main drag? Would that cost $300 million? I know, I know, it’s a completely impracticable suggestion, but this palaver has been going on since I moved to Kilmore in the early 1990’s. The land owners won’t be giving up their land, and even if they would, or are forced to, no one can agree on the route. Build an overpass to connect Clarke Street over the B75. Traffic will flow better out of Woolies & Coles. Develop Murray around to Junction, then John until past Union – could that part of John be developed into a new main street? If businesses are closing down on Sydney Street because the situation is not tenable, couldn’t we just reinvent the wheel? Most businesses on Sydney Road are accessible from the rear, and better parking could be provided with a bit of ingenuity. On the other side of the highway, connect Victoria Pde, White St and Skehan Place with more overpasses, particularly a bridge over B75 again that connects Skehan & C324. Every time I visit the new supermarkets, and get stuck at that tortuous intersection, I think how cool it would be to have an overpass there! Right, queue outraged criticism of my idea 😉

  2. Hold up for a minute. When this bypass was mentioned years ago, it was the WALLAN-Kilmore Bypass. Last few years I’ve noted the Wallan bit has been removed and it has become all about Kilmore now. Put that aside, the big problem will be land acquisition. No landowner will give up their land for a road. Can’t see this ever getting done unless the govt force land acquisition.

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