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Roads in ruin: Community cries for change

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Max Davies
Max Davies
Max is a journalist for the North Central Review. He joined the paper as a cadet journalist in 2021 and graduated from La Trobe University in 2023. He takes a keen interest in motorsport and the automotive industry.

Roads in the region have reached a crisis point – major routes are pockmarked with holes, surfaces are deteriorating and crumbling, and motorists are forced to dodge and weave their way along daily commutes.

Roads in the Mitchell Shire and surrounds have deteriorated as a result of increased traffic and a lack of maintenance funding.

The situation was exacerbated by extreme wet weather in late 2022 that caused further damage to road surfaces and left some areas in need of a near-full reconstruction.

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In a poll posted on the Review’s Facebook page last week, more than 600 people unanimously voted the quality of roads in the Mitchell Shire had ‘gotten worse’ in the last year.

The surface of the Northern Highway heading into Kilmore from the south has been crumbling since the June 2021 storm. ​

The famous Wallan Botanical Gardens – a tree and flowers that were also planted in a major pothole on the Northern Highway near the intersection of William Street earlier this year – as well as statewide radio coverage on 3AW last month have further highlighted the issue in the shire.

In Wallan, where roads like Watson Street, William Street and the main thoroughfare of High Street feature in the worst of half-hearted maintenance in Mitchell Shire’s south, residents have needed to stay especially alert to avoid damage to their wheels and tyres.

Wallan’s Watson Street, which has had reduced speed limits for around five months. The road was also a site for recent phone/seatbelt detection camera testing. ​

To combat the issue, speed limits on roads, that would have otherwise been 80 or 100 kilometres an hour, have been reduced to as low as 40km/h, enforced by temporary ‘road work’ signs – albeit with no actual work taking place.

Wallan resident Chris Xuereb voiced his concerns and called for change with an online petition.

“I’m reasonably new to the area, I’ve only been living in Wallan for close to two years now and in that time frame, I have gone through two sets of tyres,” he said.

“I’ve had to get my punctures repaired three times as well on top of that, it’s just not safe in general. I have seen people get into accidents based on that.

“People have tried [petitions] before but it’s plateaued, and they just never did anything about it. I’m not going to stop.”

Vehicles are forced to cross a double white line to avoid a pothole on the council-managed Kilmore East Road.

In the petition’s description – which can be viewed at bit.ly/3tXcSi8 – Mr Xuereb called for immediate pothole repair, regular road maintenance, transparency and accountability, community engagement, and long-term infrastructure investment.

Mr Xuereb conceded his petition would likely not result in the changes he had hoped for but intended to ‘make enough of a noise about it’ that something might be done in the future.

The majority of the region’s worst roads – including Watson Street, Kilmore’s Sydney Street, and Epping-Kilmore Road – fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Transport and Planning, DTP, formerly known as VicRoads.

The DTP failed to respond to the Review’s request for comment despite several prompts in the past fortnight.

However, Labor Member for Kalkallo Ros Spence said there was no doubt the condition of Watson Street had deteriorated.

“Since becoming the Member for Kalkallo in November 2022, Watson Street has been raised with me several times by residents frustrated by the state of the road,” she said.

“I continue to share these concerns with the Minister for Roads as a priority for repairs.”

Ms Spence said unprecedented rainfall across Victoria last year had caused a significant amount of damage to the road network. 

“This year, the Victorian Government is rolling out a $770 million road maintenance blitz,” she said.

“This will deliver the repairs that are needed right across our regional road network.”

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5 COMMENTS

  1. It seems like there’s been a change in how road repairs are done. In the past, they used to properly fill and compact the holes, but now it appears to be a quicker fix. Perhaps exploring soil stabilisation methods could improve the longevity and effectiveness of road repairs.

    • Soil stabilisation methods are definitely a good option as a preventative measure, but probably aren’t much help once the pothole has already formed.

      The technical solution to potholes was proven 25 years ago. We have forgotten. Google ‘Sydney Olympics road construction’. The Olympics roads were built at less than half the price of conventional (unbound granular) road pavements and are still in good shape today. It is astounding that so many pavement engineers persist with unsustainable, expensive and fragile unbound granular roads when insitu stabilisation processes, machinery and nanotechnology have advanced so far.

      ARRB (now NTRO) says: “Moisture is kryptonite for roads, and inevitably leads to potholes”. See https://www.arrb.com.au/news/building-better-roads-to-prevent-another-3.8-billion-blowout
      The ARRB statement applies to unbound road pavements (ie. most road bases), but is not is necessarily true for bound road bases. Here is one low-cost way to permanently solve the pothole problem: https://renolith.com.au/kryptonite-for-roads/

  2. All Victorians should be aware by now that this government is only focussed on big, expensive, over budget projects. They are happy to get you into and out of towns but want nothing to do with helping you manage your local roads. Too many council want to get involved in federal politics rather than looking after rubbish and roads and waste. So vote with your feet next time and insist on making councillors and MP’s more accountable.

  3. Both the council and the government are responsible just pull your finger out and work together to fix it, or there will be repercussions at the next council elections

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