A BENDIGO councillor has questioned whether the Calder Alternative Highway is fit for purpose as a major truck route, saying planning needs to begin for a bypass.
Councillor James Williams said the number of accidents had increased as traffic became heavier along the Calder Alternative Highway.
Cr Williams is deputy chair of the Calder Highway Improvement Committee.
He said more crashes were also taking place at Marong, where the Calder and Calder Alternative highways intersect.
Two children were taken to hospital for observation after a crash at the intersection of the Calder and Calder Alternative highways on Sunday.
Staff at Marong businesses say traffic has become heavier since the Ravenswood Interchange was completed.
Upgrades to the Ravenswood intersection of the Calder and Calder Alternative highways were finished in 2018, with works to northbound lanes in use from 2017.
Cr Williams said government needed to look for an alternative route, or a bypass for Marong, as Bendigo grew.
He said the problem with traffic along the Calder Alternative Highway would only get worse as the city's population increased.
"I'm seriously concerned about the capacity of the Calder Alternative to function as a major truck route, given the upgrades to the Ravenswood Interchange and the ability of that section of road from a safety perspective to manage the increasing traffic demands," Cr Williams said.
"What's changed is just increasing volumes [of traffic], but also the Calder being recognised as a heavy transport route.
"It has a very uneven surface, along with a number of industries, along with schools, there are just a whole number of compounding [factors]."
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Marong businesses see the through traffic every day.
The Australian Eucalyptus Company store manager Chelsea Geyer said traffic through Marong was getting busier by the day.
Ms Geyer said she sees near misses daily at the intersection. She sees crashes every few months, normally "fender benders".
"It's quite congested at times, especially with the big trucks," Ms Geyer said.
"There's a lot of semi-trailers that have been coming through quite fast, I'm surprised there haven't been more crashes than what there have been."
Ms Geyer said the question of a bypass was a "tough one" for Marong.
She speculated the Australian Eucalyptus Company would look at relocating if a bypass was built, because it would take away business. But Ms Geyer said Marong was also a safe option.
"It's good for business and the businesses around us to have the roads go through," she said.
"[But] if you have the bypass it's probably a bit better for the residents."
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Marong Garage proprietor Shayne Engi said he was amazed no one had been "cleaned up" at the intersection over the years.
Mr Engi said he's only seen two or three crashes in the 20 years his business had been at Marong.
But he said it was a busy intersection, with trucks during the week, and caravans and boats leading up to the long weekends.
Mr Engi said he did not believe the intersection could handle the load if traffic kept getting heavier.
A bypass wouldn't make a lot of difference for his mechanical business, but might affect the pub and the general store more, he said.
Cr Williams said the Calder Highway Improvement Committee supported duplication of the road through to Bridgewater, which would give it freeway status.
He said this would allow the Calder to intercept with the Loddon Valley Highway. Cr Williams said the committee's long term strategy was to have the Northern Highway swing west and hook into the Calder, creating a link to Melbourne's port.
Calder Highway Improvement Committee chair David Bollard said the organisation was requesting VicRoads and the government work together to plan improvements to the Calder Alternative Highway.
Mr Bollard said the Calder Alternative Highway appeared to be quite dangerous, with an increased number of accidents.
New development around Marong meant traffic had increased, he said.
He said a broader plan was needed, to take into account the entire route.
"The importance of the Calder is it opens up Melbourne to country Victoria, and it's a major freight route between country Victoria and the port," Mr Bollard said.
"The Calder is the major arterial road for Bendigo and the north of Bendigo and we need to keep it as safe as possible to limit motor vehicle and truck accidents in the area."
Regional Roads Victoria had no current projects at the Calder and Calder Alternate, acting regional director (Northern) Barry Green said.
"Safety is always our number one priority and we'll monitor this intersection to see if any safety upgrades are required," he said.
There have been four crashes resulting in injury in the five years to 20 September, not including Sunday's incident, Mr Green said.
"It's always upsetting to see anyone injured on our roads and our thoughts are with those affected by these crashes," he said.
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