Jam puts road back in focus

Chloe FraserBusselton Dunsborough Times

Traffic came to a standstill for several hours and vehicles banked up all the way from Busselton to Capel after the recent long weekend, bringing the long-rallied-for dual carriageway back into focus.

This week, Vasse MLA and shadow tourism minister Libby Mettam renewed calls for the duplication to be made a priority after the State Government’s announcement last week $20 million would be invested into the Collie Futures Fund, aimed at diversifying the town’s economy.

Ms Mettam said the announcement of a Collie Futures Economic Advisory Committee to guide the investment was a “smack in the face” to regional WA, and said the money would benefit the whole State if used elsewhere.

“Collie benefited from a range of investments under the previous Government, including upgrades to the Collie hospital and $50 million worth of upgrades to the Coalfields Highway,” she said.

“The dual carriageway project is a project for Western Australia. It is in the interest of public safety and has an impact on the tourism experience.”

The stretch of road, which was identified as one of RAC’s most dangerous roads last year, carries about 14,000 vehicles a day, with that number almost doubling on long weekends.

About 74 crashes have been recorded there since 2011.

However, Labor leaders have stood by their election commitment to direct funds into the Collie community to address uncertainty around the future of the coal industry.

Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the Futures Fund was designed to create long-term jobs in the area and had nothing to do with local roads.

“For Ms Mettam to suggest these funds should be diverted to roads in her electorate will be seen by the community as a demonstration of the inability for intelligent prioritisation of expenditure that was the hallmark of the last Government,” she said.

Meanwhile, Collie-Preston MLA Mick Murray said the Collie Futures fund was not only for the town itself, but was crucial in steering the South West towards a more suitable future.

“The majority of the 3000 people employed in Collie’s industries live outside the Collie region,” he said.

“Without the work we are doing to future-proof and diversify Collie’s industry-heavy economy, the whole region will suffer.”

Main Roads is undertaking pre-construction works in anticipation of funding coming forward in future years, despite the project not being acknowledged in the most recent State Budget.

Ms Mettam said the project was “shovel-ready” and should be prioritised.

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