No surface paradise on funds-starved Ocean Road

THE safety of the Great Ocean Road is in danger of ''extensive and significant failure'' without more government money.

VicRoads has warned the government that a significant part of the road needs repairing.

In a briefing note to Transport Minister Terry Mulder, released under freedom of information laws, VicRoads' chief operating officer, Bruce Gidley, said about $9 million was needed to maintain the road ''to an appropriate standard''.

This is more than the $6.8 million the government has invested since July last year. ''The current pavement rehabilitation funding levels increase the likelihood that there will be extensive and significant failure of the road pavement,'' Mr Gidley wrote. ''If this occurs, reductions in speed limits and level of service will be required to manage traffic safely.''

The Great Ocean Road is a 240-kilometre stretch between Torquay and Warrnambool, and one of the most visited tourist destinations in the state.

The document, written in November after one of Mr Mulder's constituents complained to him about potholes and safety worries, says the pavement varies from ''poor to very good condition, with most of the more distressed areas in the western half'' of the road.

Opposition roads spokesman Luke Donnellan, who obtained the documents under FOI, accused the government of potentially putting lives at risk. ''This is a disgraceful situation where Victoria's iconic Great Ocean Road - our tourism Mecca - is not only being damaged by wear and tear, but by inaction from the Baillieu government,'' he said.

Safety along the Great Ocean Road has been an issue for the government since it came to office.

Last year, after the January floods, heavy rain caused several major landslips along the road, forcing closures to all but local traffic between Lorne and Skenes Creek.

About $4 million was spent to repair areas at high risk of landslip and improve drainage along the road.

But the documents show VicRoads also identified 33 spots that needed reconstruction, at a further cost of $7 million, but this was not funded in last year's budget.

VicRoads did not stipulate the 33 spots when asked by The Sunday Age, saying they could have been reprioritised as part of the organisation's maintenance program. However, the regional director for the south-western region, William Tieppo, said they ranged from small patching jobs, through to larger rehabilitation projects.

He said the road had been allocated about $6.8 million for maintenance since July 2011, including road surface patching, sealing (or waterproofing), bridge repairs and roadside maintenance.

''In addition, VicRoads also undertakes geo-technical inspections and assessments at high-risk locations along the Great Ocean Road to respond to any areas of deterioration,'' he said. ''These sites are monitored and repaired as required to ensure the Great Ocean Road is safe.''

ftomazin@theage.com.au

The story No surface paradise on funds-starved Ocean Road first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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