Dual lanes to Lochiel?

THE Coalition’s pre-election funding commitment to duplicate the Augusta Highway between Port Wakefield and Port Augusta may be enough to create an additional two lanes from ‘Crash Corner’ to Lochiel according to an industry expert.

Grey MP, Rowan Ramsey, announced his party would invest $64 million toward the project if it forms government, which would likely be supported with funding from the State Government, taking the total investment to about $80 million.

Mr Ramsey would not be drawn on possible estimates on how much of the highway would be duplicated with that amount of funding, nor where the money will be spent on the 208km stretch.

However, former Wakefield Regional Council CEO, Jason Kuchel, who has moved into a role as Director, NSW and SA with Cement Concrete and Aggregates Australia (CCAA), believed it has the potential to cover the 30km stretch from the proposed overpass north of Port Wakefield to Lochiel.

“As a rough guide, a kilometre of dual lane carriageway costs around $1 million not taking into account land acquisitions, bridges, major cut and fill or road realignments,” he said.

“If you need to build a new bridge, that can chew up millions of dollars pretty quickly and if the road is realigned to improve safety, that can also be costly.

“CCAA welcomes the announcement as it is critically important to continue to have a pipeline of  projects to keep the heavy construction materials sector buoyant. Projects like these support hundreds of jobs during construction and provide a lasting benefit to the local community.”

Mr Ramsey’s preferred position was starting the duplication from Port Wakefield and heading north but would wait on advice with engineers and planners.

“It seems pretty obvious to me to start the dual lanes at Port Wakefield and keep going,” he said.

 “Traffic loads to the north and west through to WA are increasing every year.

“We have added more passing lanes and certainly that has made a difference, but the case for dual lanes all the way to Port Augusta keeps increasing.

“This is an election commitment, but it lies within the budget parameters we set out in April when we lifted the total infrastructure commitment from the Liberal/National Government to one hundred billion dollars.”

The duplication project is on top of the $90 million overpass for Crash Corner, which includes highway duplication from Port Wakefield to the intersection.

Mr Kuchel said both projects would have huge safety and economic benefits for the Mid North.

“The easier it is for people to head north on holidays or a weekend away, the more likely they will take that opportunity,” he said.

“Whether it’s the Copper Coast, Wakefield region, Clare Valley, or Flinders Ranges, more people will go that way if it’s safe to do so and knowing they won’t get stuck behind someone.”

Recent information indicated the overpass project could take off later this year.

Mr Ramsey said if the Coalition fails to form government, he would continue to lobby for the duplication project if elected in Grey.

“If they can at least match the commitment for a start, that would be very good,” he said.

• Pictured: Grey MP, Rowan Ramsey, is delighted with the $64m funding commitment for the duplication of the Augusta Highway.