THE full duplication of the Calder Highway has at last increased safety on Bendigo’s major arterial, after decades of fear and frustration about the dangerous road.
Since works finished in 2009, crash numbers have reduced from 40 (including four fatalities) in the three previous years to 22 (two fatalities) on the stretch between Kyneton and Ravenswood South at the Fogarty’s Gap Road intersection.
“Traffic volumes have increased on this stretch of the Calder Highway significantly from before the upgrade in 2004 to post-project in 2009,” Vic Roads Northern Region director Mal Kersting said.
“However, recorded crashes have decreased since the duplication. This represents a 50 per cent decrease in fatalities and a 45 per cent decrease in overall casualty crashes.“The upgrade to freeway status included a number of safety improvements, including installation of wildlife fencing, wire rope safety barriers and more than 60 wildlife crossings… which help reduce the likelihood of motorists swerving to avoid wildlife.”
Four crashes resulting in fatalities on secondary roads into Bendigo last month have nevertheless kept the focus on road safety, boosting the campaign by the Calder Highway Improvement Committee for works at the dangerous turnoff to the Calder Alternate at Ravenswood.
RACV Public Policy general manager Brian Negus said an assessment of the crash history of the Calder in late 2011 found upgrades have delivered a “safer road”.
In 2008, the Calder Highway’s Harcourt-Malmsbury section had a two-to-three star assessment, one of the lowest in the state, with only short sections of the Great Alpine Road rated at one-star.
That assessment was updated late last year, as part of the Australian Road Assessment Program.
“This found that the Calder Highway, from Woodend to the Pyrenees Highway, was one of the most improved sections of highway in Victoria, with its risk rating reduced from medium to low,” Mr Negus said.
Three sections of the Calder Highway – including two which are still only single carriageways – figure in the top five list for Victoria’s most improved highway sections across the last decade.
The Pakenham to Warragul section of the Princes Highway recorded the highest reduction (77 per cent) of crashes, followed by the Sunraysia Highway to Mildura section of the Calder (66.7 per cent), the Woodend to Pyrenees Highway duplicated section of the Calder (63 per cent), and the Wedderburn to Culgoa singe carriageway section (60.9 per cent).
All these road sections are now rated low risk.
Mr Negus said an update of star ratings for the national network, including the Calder Highway, will be released later this year.