CENTRAL Victorian councillors are calling on VicRoads to create a concept plan into a heavy vehicle bypass for Marong, claiming that planning should start now before a predicted population boom in the town.
Members of the Calder Highway improvement committee say the completion of the Ravenswood Interchange has diverted more trucks through Marong, putting a strain on the intersection of the Calder Alternative and Calder Highway.
They have suggested constructing a new stretch of highway to take the Calder Alternative around Marong to the south to reconnect with the Calder Highway at Leichardt or closer to Bridgewater. Some committee members suggested existing roads could be used, such as Yorkshire Road, Wilsons Hill Road or Leichardt Road.
They hoped the highway would include continuous overtaking lanes, or be built with two lanes in both directions.
Committee chair David Pollard, mayor of Buloke Shire Council, said a new stretch of highway would ease pressure on Marong while improving access for businesses.
“With residential growth in the area expected to keep increasing, that is only going to increase the issues in Marong,” he said.
“We need to have a plan done with land set aside, so when it does become vital – which could be in the next few years – at least we can have something to take to the government.
“There’s still talk of a business park in that area. We would like to have the Calder Alternative connect on the west side of that park.”
The recent Marong Township Plan estimated 8000 people could live in Marong within 20 years, a figure disputed by a former town planner.
Despite having a compulsory acquisition rejected by the state government, a business park remains likely to the west of Bendigo in either Marong on the edge of Loddon Shire.
Loddon councillor Colleen Condliffe said heavy vehicles would need to bypass Marong eventually, and an improved highway could connect with possible future rail lines to Marong, Bridgewater and Inglewood.
“More trucks are now coming across from Echuca down to Bridgewater, and down to Ravenswood. You can see that the Bridgewater-Serpentine Road is becoming a main thoroughfare,” she said.
“We need to see something done to get a complete bypass around Marong and through Lockwood.
“The Calder Alternative also needs to be four lanes all the way.”
VicRoads is currently working on a plan to upgrade the Calder Highway between Ironbark and Maiden Gully with the potential for overtaking lanes.
City of Greater Bendigo councillor James Williams was also supportive of a bypass at Marong, seeing it as “essential” along with the duplication of the Calder Highway to Inglewood.
When the Marong bypass was last raised in 2016, VicRoads stated its priority was on the Ravenswood Interchange.
It again stated there were no plans for a Marong bypass.
“We're always monitoring how the Bendigo arterial road network is performing and working with City of Greater Bendigo to assess potential future upgrades to meet the changing needs of our communities,” Regional Roads Victoria northern regional director Brian Westley said.
Public transport minister Jacinta Allan was also dismissive of the idea.
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