Princes Highway West Upgrade

Transport Pillar

Project Description

Upgrading of the Princes Hwy West from Geelong to Mt Gambier including:

  • Duplication between Waurn Ponds and Winchelsea
  • Duplication between Winchelsea and Colac
  • Safety improvements between Colac and Mt Gambier.

The Need

Princes Highway West is the major inter-regional transport corridor that connects the communities of south-western Victoria to ports, airports, rail and capital cities in the South-East of Australia. The Highway directly services a population of over 350,000 people, 34 cities, towns and communities towards the coast and inland to the Hamilton Highway. The highway serves a number of important industries in south-western Victoria including agriculture, logging, grain growing, dairy and smelter products - from the aluminium plants at Geelong and Portland. Many of these, including logging and intensive animal husbandry, are expanding rapidly.

The Victorian Government’s Princes Highway West A1 Corridor Strategy (2002) indicates that travel demand is predicted to increase by up to 3.5% per annum, and that the road accident rate is greater than the state average in  the sections between Colac and Warrnambool and between Portland and Heywood.

Major upgrading of the highway is required to improve safety and the efficiencies of transport access for industry to these major population and commercial centres and the ports of Melbourne, Geelong and Portland.

The Princes Highway West Corridor Strategy proposes that the highway should be upgraded to the following standards:

  • Divided carriageways, ‘M’ road, between Waurn Ponds and Colac; and
  • A single carriageway, ‘A’ road, with overtaking lanes from Colac to the South Australian border.

Funding has been allocated for the highway between Geelong to Winchelsea and detailed planning is under way. Assuming the road is completed in a sequential fashion, work on the highway from Winchelsea could commence in about 2013.

Safety improvements beyond Colac could proceed independently of this work, as funds are made available. Likewise, planning for a route around Colac should be undertaken well prior in parallel with the planning of this section of the road.

Benefits for Victoria and the G21 region

The upgrade will support economic growth of regional industries:

  • $6 billion worth of new investment is planned or underway throughout the Great South Coast Region and this needs to be supported and further investment encouraged by efficient and safe transport links.
  • Victorian industries affected by the quality of the highway include agriculture, logging, grain growing, smelter products and tourism.
  • Traffic pressure is set to increase as the Geelong Ring Road is completed and the 6.6 million tourists that annually visit the Great Ocean Road region and other tourism destinations along the coast would benefit from improved access.

In July 2008, the Minister for Planning approved a Planning Scheme Amendment to allow the Port of Portland to expand facilities to cater for a trebling of wood chip exports to 4.5m tonnes per annum. Traffic modelling undertaken for the planning scheme amendment indicates that during peak periods this is likely to result in 136 B-Double truck movements into the Port each hour. This effectively represents an increase of 96 B-Double truck movements per hour along the Princes Highway West for access/egress to the Port.

The upgrade will save lives. If current trends continue, at least 50 deaths and 300 serious injuries can be expected to be saved within 10 years, with a CPI adjusted economic impact of $472 million.

What has been committed

  • State and Federal Governments have each committed $110 million toward the duplication of the highway between Waurn Ponds and Winchelsea.
  • The Federal and State Government have each committed $257.5 million toward the planning and construction involved in duplicating the highway between Winchelsea and Colac.
  • The State Government has committed $15 million for overtaking lanes on the Princes Highway west of Colac.

What is required

  • Completion of the duplication of the highway between Waurn Ponds and Colac in a timely fashion.
  • Funding for a study to determine future bypass options for Colac and Winchelsea.
  • Funding for remaining safety improvements between Colac and the Victorian border, as identified in the PHW Corridor Strategy (15 additional overtaking lanes, 3 bridge widenings, rail overpass, and shoulder sealing).
  • Inclusion of the full length of the Highway (Colac to Mount Gambier via Portland) in the National Highway Network. 

Project Funded