This week marks a significant shift in the way we manage Victoria’s regional and rural road network. Because the role roads play in the country are very different to those in the city.
The problem is not that we don’t have enough roads in the country – we need to change the way we maintain and develop the ones we have. Change is necessary to ensure we keep communities and industries connected. More than 80 per cent of Victoria’s arterial roads are in the regions. And for people living outside of Melbourne, roads are often the only way to get from A to B.
Having lived in regional Victoria for about 30 years, I know this firsthand, and my goal is to ensure regional communities have the safe, reliable roads they deserve.
That’s why I’m proud to lead the new, dedicated country roads body – Regional Roads Victoria – with the sole focus on fixing the country roads that need it most. That means safer roads and less congestion.
Over the coming months, I will be on the road, driving our network, meeting with communities, stakeholders and industry to understand the challenges and opportunities we face. Our aim is not only to consistently improve the condition of our roads, but to bring you with us – so you know the why and how of what we’re doing. We’ll also co-ordinate with other parts of government to make sure these road priorities get done with minimal disruption. Ultimately, our job is to make sure the roads people rely on every day are up to scratch.
We’re set to embark on the biggest road maintenance blitz Victoria has ever seen, with a record $941 million investment in regional roads. Major road rebuilds are starting this month on the Princes Highway near Moe, the Hume Freeway at Winton, and Borung Highway at Dimboola.
As the weather warms, hundreds more road upgrades will get under way in every corner of our state – creating about 650 construction jobs in regional Victoria. And for the first time, the community will be able to see what works are underway or planned in their local area via the new website at regionalroads.vic.gov.au
It’s also going to be easier to reach us when you need to talk about an upgrade or to voice any concerns via a dedicated, Ballarat-based, call centre on 13 37 78.
The challenges that our 19,000km of country arterial roads presents will not be fixed overnight, but we’re it for the long haul.
It will take sustained focus, consultation and continued investment. Together, we’ll work hard every day to build a network that gets you home safer and sooner.
Paul Northey is chief regional roads officer of Regional Roads Victoria.