Princes Highway To Reopen

Princes Highway To Reopen

Acting Victoria Minister for Roads Michael O’Brien

Victoria Minister for Energy and Resources Michael O’Brien

Princes Freeway At Morwell To Reopen Soon

Victor P Taffa

The Princes Freeway at Morwell will be reopened weather permitting in time for the September school holidays, Acting Minister for Roads and Minister for Energy and Resources Michael O’Brien said today.

Speaking after a meeting with the local Emergency Management Team which has been working hard over recent months to resolve the issues causing the road’s closure Mr. O’Brien said the road reopening would benefit local residents, business and the tourism industry.

 

“Expert advice is that the Princes Freeway at Morwell will soon be safe to reopen.” Mr. O’Brien said.

The reopening will be subject to ongoing compliance with safety standards. A Traffic Management System will be in place should the freeway need to be closed temporarily as a precautionary measure in response to ground movement or heavy rainfall.

VicRoads will prepare a Traffic Management Plan for this purpose, which will include the use of electronic message signs.

“This is great news for Gippsland motorists, businesses, residents and visitors to the area, and I want to thank them for their patience and cooperation so far and in the coming weeks.” Mr. O’Brien said.

“We understand how important it is to the community and region to reopen the road as soon as it is safe to do so and that is what we’ve been working towards for months.”

“This has been an extremely complex and challenging situation, and I would like to thank everyone involved in getting us to this point, especially Superintendent Tess Walsh and the members of the Emergency Management Team.”

Mr. O’Brien said the freeway would be open to traffic from late September at its designated 110 km/h speed limit, once additional safety and water control works are completed.

“Weather permitting, it is expected those works will be complete by the school holidays which start on 24 September.” Mr. O’Brien said.

“Once they are finished, the Princes Freeway will be able to be reopened and traffic will no longer be diverted through the city of Morwell along Princes Drive.”

A stretch of the freeway has been closed since 10 February this year, when heavy rain led to the creation of sinkholes and ground movement in the area.

Since then a range of mitigation measures have been introduced by International Power Hazelwood, including the drilling of 50 horizontal drains at the base of the mine area, to drain more water away from the area of instability. A range of geotechnical studies and surveys were undertaken to better understand the reasons for ground movement and how to prevent it.

Mr. O’Brien said the latest advice from geotechnical experts is that mitigation efforts have been effective.

Mr. O’Brien said VicRoads will immediately commence works on:

  • Lining of the 300 metre central median along the currently closed section of the freeway;
  • Other strengthening works including injecting grout into underground holes.

“The monitoring of ground movement around the freeway area will continue, even after works are completed and the road reopened to traffic.” Mr. O’Brien said.

“Around the clock monitoring of the freeway will detect any change which may result in the need for a temporary closure in the future.”

Mr. O’Brien said work would continue to finalise the longer-term solution for the use and design of the Morwell Main drain, to prevent as much as possible more water entering the area of instability.

“The engineering problems relating to the Morwell Main Drain are highly complex, and the Department of Primary Industries is continuing to work with International Power Hazelwood on the solution.” Mr. O’Brien said.

“The Victorian Coalition Government remains committed to repairing the Morwell Main Drain, which will remove the need for precautionary road closures.”

“The Coalition Government has taken a careful approach to this issue based on expert advice, in stark contrast to the reckless irresponsibility of Daniel Andrews’ Labor Opposition.” Mr. O’Brien said.