The Road Black Spot Program is vitally important in any electorate, but particularly across the rural communities that I and other parliamentarians represent.
I acknowledge the latest round of funding announced by the Minister for Transport in July, when the Department of Infrastructure and Transport funded three Black Spot Program projects in my North East Victorian electorate of Indi.
In Towong Shire, the program is contributing $179,000 to improve safety on Lake Road near Bethanga.
In neighbouring Alpine Shire, on the spectacular Bogong High Plain, it’s providing $1.4 million for major safety upgrades. In the southern shire of Murrindindi, it’s contributing $51,000 for curve warning and speed signs and markers on Skyline Road near Eildon.
The Department’s Black Spot Program webpage shows that funding is mainly available for work to reduce road risks at known black spots, or to improve safety on road lengths where there is a proven history of accidents.
Eligibility can be considered when:
At intersections, mid-block or short road sections, there is a history of at least three casualty crashes over a five-year period.
On lengths of road, there should be an average of zero point two (0.2) casualty crashes per kilometre per annum over the length in question, over five years.
Sites have a recurrent problem.
There are road locations that could be considered as ‘accidents waiting to happen’… where there should be a road safety audit.
Mr Acting Speaker – in this context I would like to draw the Chamber’s attention to a notorious section of a major highway in my electorate that should qualify for support from this program.
In March 2002, The Age published a story about roads in the southern ranges:
‘Over the past five Easter breaks, the roads through the Yarra Ranges, and neighbouring shires of Murrindindi and Delatite – (now the shire of Mansfield) – have proven to be among the most treacherous outside Melbourne, according to the Transport Accident Commission.
‘In Easter breaks since 1997, crashes in these three municipalities alone left one person dead and 51 people seriously injured.
‘(In 2001) crashes in the Yarra Ranges claimed 17 lives and caused 193 serious injuries.
‘The winding Black Spur – (on Maroondah Highway between Yarra Ranges and Murrindindi shires) – has had 99 casualty crashes since 1997: five fatalities, 35 serious casualty crashes and 59 lesser injury crashes.’
That story was seventeen years ago. It’s a road that’s still to be fixed.
Mr Speaker, the day before the 2019 election result was declared in Indi, I was visiting the communities of Marysville and Alexandra. In two meetings, local people again told me about the Black Spur section of Maroondah Highway.
The highway has a history of distressing fatal and numerous serious injury crashes.
But community concern about the risks at Black Spur is so pronounced that two weeks ago, in Marysville Community Centre, up to 200 people gathered to discuss what can be done.
My colleagues from the Victorian Parliament – Cindy McLeish MP, Member for Eildon, and Tania Maxwell MLC, Member for Northern Victoria – were present. So was Murrindindi Shire Council chief executive Craig Lloyd, representatives from Murrindindi Incorporated, and VicRoads.
Maroondah Highway is the only direct, major road from the Yarra Valley town of Healesville up towards Narbethong and through to Buxton – or across to Marysville.
It then goes north to Taggerty. From there it heads on to Alexandra, while another arterial road branches from it at Taggerty to carry traffic to and from Eildon.
The highway is critical for business and tourism between Murrindindi communities and Melbourne’s east. It’s also a spectacular drive – described to me as ‘the Ranges version of the Great Ocean Road’.
But Black Spur remains a serious challenge for people and communities on the highway – because for much of its winding length of about 10 kilometres it’s impossible (and illegal) to overtake.
It’s a road that needs better signage, more slow vehicle turn-outs, better sealing, bicycle lanes and active management of old roadside trees – because the road passes through a wonderful forest of mountain ash.
As it is, when trees fall, or accidents occur, the road is often closed for hours. This forces travellers to take major detours on unsealed forest roads or back through Yea to drive an alternative route to Melbourne.
Maroondah Highway is to be closed for three days this week and one day next week in daylight hours for major tree felling works.
The people and communities of Murrindindi want a safe and reliable highway. The Black Spot Program can help to deliver one. What can we do to make this happen?