The State Government was pressing for the $40 million Great Eastern Highway upgrade to be listed as a priority under the National Highway Program, Goldfields Minister and Kalgoorlie MLA Ian Taylor said today.
"Preliminary estimates indicate about $40 million is needed to widen and upgrade the highway," he said.
"This upgrading would include widening the road to seven metres. Some sections on the western end are only 6.2 metres and to include overtaking lanes where they are warranted.
"The Great Eastern Highway is probably the single most important road in Western Australia in terms of interstate trade but the gains in trucking technology have meant that the road needs a major upgrade."
Mr Taylor said Main Roads had a five-year strategy that would be put to the Federal Government in time for funds to be set aside for next financial year.
"From personal experience, I am well aware of the condition of the road and have reservations over the decision to allow road trains to travel as far as Northam," the Minister said.
"I have put these concerns to Transport Minister Pam Beggs.
"She has advised me a $2.9 million repair project on the road has begun so that sections of the road damaged through the heavy winter will be repaired before the road trains begin operating next April."
He said Mrs Beggs had said the lifting of commodity restrictions on road trains using Great Eastern Highway was part of updating the State's road transport policy and had followed approaches from transport operators, including the WA Road Transport Association.
The move opened up the opportunity for significant cuts in road freight costs for residents and businesses in the Goldfields.
Road trains and B-doubles already had been operating on the highway for some time and, while the new policy would increase road train numbers, the overall impact on truck volumes was expected to be minimal as the increase in road train traffic would be offset by a fall in the number of semi-trailer movements.
"Mrs Beggs agreed with me that increased seal widths and overtaking opportunities were desirable," Mr Taylor said.
"Main Roads engineers will look at these aspects as part of the overall review. In the meantime, they have said that once the repairs currently underway are completed, the highway will allow the changeover to road trains."