KANGAROO GROUND locals are outraged over a 17km stretch of road safety barriers VicRoads are currently constructing on Kangaroo Ground – St Andrews Road.
According to VicRoads, the project will benefit the community by increasing road safety and preventing high-speed collisions.
The Victorian Government has provided $6.2 million to the project.
But many locals, including Nillumbik Councillor for Sugarloaf Ward Jane Ashton, believe the project is a waste of taxpayer’s money.
“It really is an over-engineered mess in the middle of our beautiful green wedge,” she said.
While Ms Ashton is in favour of making local roads safer, she, and many other locals, are questioning VicRoads’ methods.
“The VicRoads’ data shows that speed reduction has far greater cost benefit than barriers,” Ms Ashton said.
Also worrying locals is the fact that VicRoads have built a section of the barriers near a major kangaroo crossing.
Kangaroo Ground resident Lia Williams says, “It is upsetting to see dead kangaroos on the road outside my property, slaughtered between the newly erected barriers”.
The barriers could also prevent local firefighters from entering properties during an emergency.
“We live in a very high-risk fire area; a barrier is going to block you into your own property. It restricts firefighters’ access and puts all of us in more danger,” Ms Williams said.
Another major concern for the locals and drivers is the safety of cyclists. Up to 500 cyclists travel along Kangaroo Ground – St Andrews Road each weekend.
“Cyclists [are] being forced along even narrower sections of rough road,” Councillor Ashton said.
Ms Williams believes the barriers are a quick-fix solution.
“Many cyclists use this road up to Kinglake. It is a really narrow road as it is, they should have used the money for cycling lanes. What they are doing is a blanket approach — put barriers where they are needed, not just on straight stretches of road because there are trees.”
Locals voiced their disapproval of the project with ongoing protests during April, with up to 40 attending some rallies.
The protestors have been gathering support through a petition and by passing leaflets to drivers as they stop at the road works.
“We have had a rolling group of protestors nearly every day for three weeks; many people have written to the Premier, their local MPs and VicRoads, but few have had their letters acknowledged,” Councillor Ashton said.
“Nillumbik Council has also written to VicRoads asking them to cease work and re-engage with the community.
“This is really a David and Goliath battle, with VicRoads ploughing on as quickly as possible,” she said.
The residents are frustrated that VicRoads have taken little notice of their disapproval and ignored the local community’s ideas.
“The community suggested improving road shoulders, particularly for cyclists, fixing up road surfaces, creating safer turnouts from Yarra Glen and Wattle Glen Roads onto Kangaroo Ground Road, and additional speed reductions,” Councillor Ashton says.
“For VicRoads it was community consultation but for us it wasn’t — we were ignored,” Ms Williams added.
Ms Williams believes a major issue in VicRoads’ assessment of the area is the fact there have been no fatalities for many years.
“There have been 11 accidents in the past eight years with no fatalities on the Kangaroo Ground – St Andrews Road in the statistics that we have [from VicRoads], yet Kangaroo Ground – Warrandyte Road has had 23 accidents in the past four years. VicRoads are doing nothing to improve that road,” Ms Williams said.
Local resident George Bernard agreed.
“I’m a local firefighter and I can’t remember the last time I’ve come to a serious accident [on the road] with fatalities or people having to be hospitalised,” he said.
VicRoads data confirmed that there had been zero fatalities on Kangaroo Ground – St Andrews Road since January 1 2006, while on Kangaroo Ground – Warrandyte Road there had been three fatalities.
The VicRoads barriers are being constructed throughout May, and are expected to be completed in June.