FEDERAL Nationals say the dangerous intersection at the Calder Alternate Highway needs an urgent upgrade, but have stopped short of listing it as a funding priority if they are elected into government next year.
Work to improve safety at the problem intersection has been on the agenda for a number of years, but continue to be delayed as state and federal governments criticise each other for inaction.
The earliest the site could be upgraded is 2015, when the next round of the federal government’s Building Australia funding program starts.
State member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards said that could be delayed even further if the state government didn’t apply for the federal funding before the deadline at the end of August.
Before the 2010 state election, Bendigo East MP Jacinta Allan promised $7 million for planning and initial work.
The Coalition government didn’t match that when it was elected and instead called on the federal Labor government to pay for it.
But federal Bendigo MP Steve Gibbons said how the Building Australia funds were spent depended on each state government.
Darren Chester, the National Party’s shadow parliamentary secretary for roads, said he didn’t want to get into a blame game.
“State and federal governments both have responsibilities in terms of working together to improve road safety,” he said.
“The fact we’ve had severe accidents and fatalaties there… it’s something we’ve got to work in partnership to try and solve. The intersection is obviously a very high priority for the local community.”
Mr Gibbons called on Nationals members to redirect their efforts on the state government to appeal for commonwealth funding.
“If they are fair dinkum about gaining federal funding for the upgrade then they have to realise the ball is well and truly in the state government’s court,” he said.
Bendigo-based Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie said she would raise the road safety concerns at the party’s policy development stage of budgetary considerations before the next election.
Bronwyn Young has lived near the Calder Alternate Highway for 24 years and said the traffic and the rate of accidents had increased “dramatically” in recent years.
“I’m surprised there haven’t been more fatalities. You see near misses all the time,” she said.
“I’d like to see any upgrade to make it safer. I’m not interested in who delivers it; I think people in the community have been waiting years and want to see something done.”