How NSW Government will upgrade Barton Highway

BOOST FROM STATE GOVERNMENT: The NSW Government revealed a $50 million injection towards developing the Barton Highway. Photo: Yass Tribune
BOOST FROM STATE GOVERNMENT: The NSW Government revealed a $50 million injection towards developing the Barton Highway. Photo: Yass Tribune

As well as the two-lane carriageway on the duplication alignment from south of Gooda Creek Road to Vallencia Drive and upgrades of their respective intersections, the $50 million State Government investment in the Barton Highway, as revealed in a pre-budget announcement on Friday, June 16, will include the following developments:

  • Two other road intersections.
  • Delineation improvements along the highway to address crash-risk locations, particularly for fog and low-light conditions, including potential for lighting at intersections.
  • Provision of safe clear zones progressively along the corridor.
  • Provision of adequate safety barriers where hazards cannot be removed.
  • Improvement to access and safety for cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders within Murrumbateman village in conjunction with Yass Valley Council.
  • Extension of existing northbound overtaking lane near Vallencia Drive onto the duplication alignment with potential to provide a southbound overtaking lane on the new alignment.
  • Delivery of clear zone works along the highway, including batter flattening, culvert extensions and vegetation removal.
  • Provision of adequate safety barriers where hazards cannot be removed.

The Federal Government, in comparison, is spending $45 million for overtaking lanes, focused on locations that acquire the ultimate duplication corridor and that are in the high-traffic areas in the central and southern sections of the highway.

A duplication business case – being developed with support from the NSW Government – will also cost $1.75 million, which will include recommended staging and costings for duplication.

Finally, $3.25 million is going towards safety upgrades, including ongoing pavement upgrades and intelligent transport systems to inform road users of changed traffic conditions.

NSW Government says investment is progress towards duplication

State Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Melinda Pavey said that while the highway was a Federal Government responsibility, State Government has “acknowledged that they’ve put $50 million on the table”.

“It should be more, but it is what it is so we’re going to add $50 million over the next four years to improve the safety of the highway,” she said.

A 2016 accident on the Barton Highway. Photo: Yass Tribune

A 2016 accident on the Barton Highway. Photo: Yass Tribune

“We’re going to fast-track the safety work and we’ll continue to work with the Federal Government – it is their responsibility, there’s no denying that. But in good faith, we are saying because of economic management, we’re pleased we’ve been able to respond to what the community’s been asking us what to do to enjoy magnificent lifestyles.”

Mrs Pavey said none of the work will be redundant.

“There will be a small bit of duplication available with this money. We’re going to be putting more overtaking lanes in. It will part of an improved highway, improved duplication into the future,” she said.

Similarly, Member for Goulburn Pru Goward said the $50 million investment by the state was “a great step forward”.

“I think the community understands that we need to lobby Canberra for the funding for the duplication. The ratio is about four to one and we’re not going to get a duplication without a serious commitment by the Federal Government,” she said.

Work is set to begin before the end of 2017 and will align with any future duplication.

NRMA welcomes investment

In light of the NSW Government’s investment, NRMA Director Kate Lundy said the announcement showed the community benefit of the State and Federal Governments collaborating.

“When compared to other similar roads, the Barton Highway has a significantly higher crash rate, and the community is right to be concerned about safety on this stretch of road.”

“We congratulate both levels of government on this commitment, as cross-border collaboration is critical to delivering improvements to this Highway,” Ms Lundy said.

The NRMA continues to call for duplication, however, after the highway was regarded as one of the 10 worst roads in NSW and the ACT in NRMA’s 2015 Seeing Red on Roads survey, which involved nearly 8,000 road users across the state.

In the NRMA 2016–17 budget submission, the organisation urged the Federal Government to commit funds to duplicate the remaining 33 km of single-lane carriageway on the Barton Highway, between the ACT border and the dual carriageway north of Murrumbateman.

It states that “full duplication of the highway is considered essential to address the poor safety ranking from the Hume Highway to Canberra”.

“NRMA believes it is imperative that funds be available to completely duplicate the highway as an important part of the National Network,” the submission reads.

In 2009–13, there were 137 crashes along the highway, including seven fatalities and 70 injury crashes.

“When compared to other similar roads, the Barton Highway has a significantly higher crash rate, and the community is right to be concerned about safety on this stretch of road,” Ms Lundy said.

In addition, the volume of freight movements on the Barton Highway is expected to increase by 94 per cent by 2031 based on research commissioned by the NRMA.

“So roads improvements are critical to supporting the economic prosperity that should flow from connecting agricultural producers in the Yass Valley with export markets,” Ms Lundy said.

Report finds duplication unjustified

The January 2017 Barton Highway Improvement Strategy report, funded by the NSW and Australian Governments, concludes, however, that full duplication of the highway cannot be justified in the immediate future, as well as not being “likely to be required” within 20 years.

The study – which sets out the State Government’s 20-year plan to manage and guide the road corridor within NSW to improve safety, traffic efficiency and sustainability – reads that preliminary work initially estimated the cost of duplication to be $800 million.

“Although a more current estimate is yet to be prepared, it is considered that duplication could cost up to $1 billion in today’s figures. For this reason, there is no doubt that duplication signifies a major investment by government in the country’s road infrastructure,” the report reads.

The RMS report comes after the 2016 Australian Road Assessment Program (AusRAP) report, which analysed casualty crash data in 2010–14 to develop ‘risk mapping’ of national highways.

The AusRAP risk mapping finds that the NSW sections of the Barton Highway were medium and low–medium risks while the ACT section was low risk. The study also found that while the highway did not make the best 10 highway sections in NSW, it also did not make the worst 10.