A long-awaited overtaking lane will be built on the Snowy Mountains Highway just west of Adelong, at a cost of $2.6m.
Currently there is no overtaking lane for drivers travelling west on the highway between Talbingo and the Hume Highway.
That’s caused problems for Adelong residents over the years, with drivers often speeding down back roads in order to get ahead of trucks.
This eventually led to Lynch Street being closed off at the highway end some years ago, which only then pushed the problem onto Lockhart Street.
In 1998 the Commission of Inquiry examining the Visy pulp and paper mill project heard that “serious inconvenience is likely to drivers of passenger and light commercial vehicles due to the roads lacking overtaking opportunities, especially in the vicinity of Adelong.”
The former Tumut Shire Council proposed a suite of measures aimed to slow down motorists along Lockhart Street while formally lobbying the state government for an overtaking lane on the highway. Local police also promised to undertake regular patrols of the area.
Five years on, residents have said that that people continue to use the street as a by-pass to get ahead of trucks and that dangerous and risk taking behaviour by drivers has been occurring on the main street for some time.
Snowy Valleys Councillor James Hayes said that he was pleased to see the new works occurring after about 25 years of community and council lobbying.
“I came on board at council in 1999 and although it wasn’t a primary concern of council, we saw that it was in the best interest of the community and so we pushed hard for it, especially after Visy came in,” he said.
Cr Hayes attributed much of the credit for the projectto former Wagga MP Daryl Maguire who he said pushed the cause during the time when he was member for the electorate.
“He really championed for this to happen and I think he deserves to be recognised,” he said.
“It’s going to make things so much safer for road users. Many people including myself have seen some hairy situations with trucks overtaking one another along the main street which is incredibly dangerous for people backing out.
“We also know that there is a great deal of speeding that occurs along the main street. Council has performed speeding tests and we know that common speeds are high.”
He said that he would like to see further considerations for that part of the highway recognised further.
“I would also like to see a consideration made about putting a bicycle lane in, established adjacent to the highway from Sandy Gully Road back to town. That would be great. At the moment though its just a relief and a positive outcome after years of fighting for it,” he said.
Tumut Street resident Chris Piper agreed that the lanes will make a great deal of difference for trucks and cars venturing along the highway, but that there would still be a ways to go in curbing speeding in Adelong.
“We’ve been waiting to get speed cameras in the main street of Adelong for a while because of all the overtaking and crazy stuff that goes on. Police agree that it would be the biggest way to curb speeding with cameras,” he said.
“I see a lot of trucks pull over to let other cars pass because many cars get frustrated and want to make silly decisions. I think the new lanes will definitely take the pressure off.”
Long time Adelong Resident and Bendigo bank manager Stephanie Smyth said that she hopes the changes will stop drivers from making dangerous decisions along the road which she says is becoming more and more frequent.
“It will certainly improve the safety in town. I think its certainly a big step in the right direction,” she said.
“Just last Friday I saw a car overtake a truck and two cars along the main street,” she said. “The really frightening thing is it happens all the time. If these new overtaking lanes can curb that behavior, I don’t think I’ll be the only one sighing in relief.
Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Roads and Infrastructure Chris Gulaptis said the upgrade would support motorists travelling in and around Tumut and the Hume Highway.
“The Snowy Mountain Highway is a key connector between the south west of the state and the South Coast and Monaro regions and is regularly used by freight vehicles,” Mr Gulaptis said.
“With steep hills this can often result in slower travel times, which is why we’re investing $2.6 million to build a new one kilometer overtaking lane.
“Vehicles will be able to move around heavy vehicles, helping them to get to their destination sooner and safer.”
Work will involve widening the existing road surface, installing safety signs and barriers as well as drainage and slope improvements.
A number of trees and shrubs will also be removed as part of the work to increase road safety.
Work started this week and will take place between 7am and 6pm on weekdays and 8am to 1pm on Saturdays between the Henry Street and Sandy Gully Road intersections.
Work is expected to be completed by April 2020, weather permitting.