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Hope for diamond interchange in Wallan

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By Colin MacGillivray

AFTER a litany of false dawns, hope for a completed Hume Freeway diamond interchange at Wallan’s Watson Street appears to be on the horizon with a $130 million pledge from Labor ahead of the state election.

Deputy Premier Jacinta Allen visited Wallan on Friday to announce the funding, contingent on the outcome of the election.

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Watson Street currently has north-facing entry and exit ramps to the Hume Freeway but no south-facing ramps, forcing Melbourne-bound traffic from Wallan East through the centre of town.

The project requires a duplication of Watson Street, necessitating funding from both the state and federal governments.

In May the State Government said the former Federal Government had delivered less than one per cent of the $50 million it promised for the ramps in 2020, while the Federal Government said the funding was contingent on State Government benchmarks that had not been achieved.

Ms Allen said she believed the project would be easier to finalise with Labor winning government at federal level earlier this year.

“It’s great to have a partner in Canberra where we can sit down and talk about priorities, whether it is statewide priorities or really important local priorities like here at Watson Street,” she said.

“We haven’t had that for the past eight years and it means that the projects that are funded jointly by federal and state governments can get moving as quickly as possible.”

Federal Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell said there had been a disconnect between states and the former Federal Government.

“It’s fair to say that every state government had difficulty working with Scott Morrison and his team. Right across the nation governments were struggling because they couldn’t get that relationship working,” he said.

“Within five months of Labor being elected we have got together, made our commitment, and the Andrews government has worked with us because they know how important this is.”

Candidate for Yan Yean Lauren Kathage and Member for Yuroke and candidate for the new Kalkallo electorate Ros Spence advocated for the election commitment, with the Watson Street interchange sitting near the border of Yan Yean and Kalkallo.

Ms Kathage said a completed diamond interchange would help alleviate Wallan’s traffic problems.

“As a local I know all too well the issues we have with not having an interchange. From day one this has been a high priority for me, working with Ros, to emphasise the importance of this project,” she said.

“I know that the deputy premier being here demonstrates how important it is for Labor to deliver for our growing suburbs.

“The previous Federal Government didn’t take this project seriously, and we saw that in the fact that they only released less than one per cent of the funding they announced to the State Government to progress the works.”

Ms Allen said if the State Government was re-elected the project would be prioritised, but did not provide a timeline for construction to begin.

“A re-elected Andrews Labor government will get this moving from the planning to the delivery stage as quickly as possible because we can see it’s a priority,” she said.

“Lauren and Ros have reinforced that it’s a priority and we want to get moving on it as quickly as we can.”

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