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Safety improvement works on the Barton Highway will begin this week and plans to duplicate part of the road will be brought forward, beginning at the ACT border, the NSW and federal governments announced on Monday, December 4.
Initial works will include new signs, tree trimming and extra safety barriers. Federal infrastructure minister Darren Chester said initial funds should also allow for a section of the road to be duplicated.
Sophie Wade, convenor of the Duplicate the Barton Highway Community Action Group, has welcomed the latest announcement by the Australian and NSW governments about delivering safety and duplication works of the Barton Highway.
Mrs Wade said the latest announcement was a “win for us as a community”.
“I’m pleased for safety works and I welcome the duplication – it’s a relief,” Mrs Wade said.
Mrs Wade thanked Melinda Pavey, NSW Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight, for listening to the community after a meeting earlier in the year.
“The biggest win from that meeting was that I felt they were listening.
“Melinda, in particularly, was interested in understanding what the community wanted,” Mrs Wade said.
“They had only $25 million in safety works at the time and I told them that while we were grateful for that, it wasn’t what the community really needed.
“We needed duplication and needed it to begin at the border, heading north.”
Mrs Wade said that while she and the community understood it would take time for full duplication, they needed to be engaged during the process.
“It was really important that her government engaged with us – to show that their committed to delivery and two to keep us informed during the process.
“I think the challenge now is to keep pressuring state and federal governments to continue the funding because this round of funding won’t do the whole 24 km of duplication needed – it may get only a fifth of the way with this,” she said.
Ms Pavey said that the current allocation of funding would not duplicate the full length from the ACT border to Murrumbateman.
“We’ll get as far as we possibly can. Then we’ll see what it takes in future budget cycles,” Ms Pavey said.
Safety works and intelligent systems to be implemented
As well as duplication, the Australian and NSW governments will be delivering all the short-term works in the Barton Highway Improvement Strategy in the next three years while also looking to bring forward works to duplicate part of the highway.
Commuters will start seeing works such as tree trimming, adjustments to existing line marking and installation of road signs and safety barriers.
Darren Chester, Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, said the works should begin this week.
Mr Chester also said the works will address the short-term actions identified in the improvement strategy.
“There is likely to be sufficient combined funding to also do a section of duplication and this is what both governments are now investigating,” Mr Chester said.
The Australian Government has also approved a $3.25 million investment in intelligent transport systems that are designed to improve trip reliability and to better manage and reduce traffic incidents.
Melinda Pavey said information technology systems (ITS) measures could include real-time traffic monitoring, closed-circuit television (CCTV) and variable message signs at strategic locations to inform road users of changed traffic conditions.
“ITS and a duplication business case are two of the short-term actions identified as part of the improvement strategy.
“The ITS measures in particular offer motorists the prospect of quicker, safer and more reliable trips by helping road users with travel decisions while improving incident management.
“This is good news for the entire Yass Valley region and is the result of significant stakeholder consultation and community feedback received as part of the improvement strategy,” Ms Pavey said.
NSW Nationals Senator John Williams said the importance of the corridor was underlined by the number of vehicles, up to 12,500, using the highway.
“The Barton Highway is being used by an increasing number of drivers – more than 8000 people – for work, school or to access services outside the Yass Valley,” Mr Williams said.
NSW Member for Goulburn Pru Goward said the investments would complement a package of improvement works aimed at improving safety, traffic flow and freight productivity.
“The Barton Highway between Yass and the ACT border is a dangerous stretch of road that has recorded 19 fatalities and 258 injuries between 1997 and 2011, so the need to act is clear,” Ms Goward said.
Initial works under the package began in November 2017 and are due for completion in mid-2021.
The Australian and NSW governments have each committed to $50 million to improve road-user safety, traffic flow and freight productivity on the Barton Highway.