Costs blow out for dangerous roads fix

Costs blow out for dangerous roads fix

A woman was freed from her vehicle after she crashed into an oncoming truck on Kargotich Rd in February 2019. Photograph – Aaron Van Rongen

A total of $18 million was awarded to the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale to improve safety on three particularly troublesome roads: Orton, Soldiers and Kargotich.

The grant funding was a fulfilment of an election promise made by the state government in 2021.

But when shire officers got down to brass tacks earlier this year, it was revealed that the shire’s ambition vastly outweighed the grant funding.

“In addition, there has been significant cost escalation across the construction industry since the funding was approved,” officers explained.

A decision to reallocate funding was made and Soldiers Rd lost out.

Originally a 6.9km section of Soldiers Rd between Abernethy Rd and Kiernan St was due for road widening and pavement improvements with $4.6 million of Metropolitan Regional Road Group funding set aside to complete the job.

But the existing high-pressure gas pipeline was causing logistical headaches to planners.

“It became evident that the existing high pressure gas main needed to be relocated to widen the road,” shire officers explained.

The cost of doing so would be exorbitant, and blow out the original funding budget.

Officers recommended council slash the scope of the Soldiers Rd project, limiting it to improving just the roundabout intersections with Kiernan St and Cardup Siding Rd. The remaining funding would then be redistributed to the other two ‘hypergrowth road projects’.

Councillors agreed to do so at their October 16 meeting.

They also awarded tenders for the roundabouts which officers predict should be completed by mid-March next year.

Former shire president Michelle Rich and local member Hugh Jones celebrated the start of upgrades to Kargotich Rd in April this year.

A much longer stretch of Orton Rd will now be able to be widened and repaired because of the extra $500,000 it received from the Soldiers Rd project.

A total of 4.5 km of road between Hopkinson Rd and 1.8km east of King Rd will be widened, rehabilitated, and resurfaced. Culverts, safety barriers and drains will also be upgraded and vegetation cleared and pruned at a cost of $6.1 million.

The shire has rationalised that a three-metre clearance either side of the lane edge will be adequate and not compromise road safety along the mostly 90kph road.

Approximately 250 trees will need to be chopped down.

“This level of vegetation clearing, considering the type of species to be cleared and resulting environmental impact, is considered to be significant and requires approval from the Commonwealth Government in accordance with Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 – EPBC Act Referral. It is anticipated that the clearing permit process will be completed by June 2024,” shire officers have said.

If clearing permits are granted, works should start on Orton Rd by October next year.

The task of making Kargotich Rd safer is a bit like the proverb detailing how to eat an elephant.

The road project has been carved into seven stages. Stage 1, from Rowley Rd to Thomas Rd is just about complete.

The $10.1 million funding from the state government will be used to complete Stages 2 and 3 of the project – from Thomas Rd to Orton Rd. Unfortunately, plans to instal roundabouts at the intersections with Abernethy Rd and Orton Rd will have to wait until more funding can be found.

“It is particularly important to prioritise the construction of roundabouts at the intersection of Abernethy and Orton Road when seeking future funding in the coming years as both these intersections are known Black Spots,” officers said.

Kargotich Rd will undergo the same improvements as Orton Rd.

The shire has marked 914 trees which would need to be removed for road widening along the whole remaining project length, from Thomas Rd to Bishop Rd.

If permits are granted, work should also start on Kargotich Rd by October 2024.