Bussell Highway between Capel and Busselton has again topped RAC’s riskiest roads list, sparking a blame game as to who will fund upgrades for one continuous dual carriageway.
As holidaymakers prepare to make what is fast becoming the dreaded trip south for the Easter long-weekend, the notorious stretch of road has been labelled the most dangerous in regional WA for the second year running.
In the latest RAC Risky Roads survey of more than 6000 motorists, concerns over the ill-fated stretch of road included a lack of overtaking opportunities, narrow lanes and poor traffic separation.
The results appear to be raising more questions than answers, with no one accepting responsibility to fund upgrades.
Capel Shire president Murray Scott has even accused the governments of “banging their heads together” and City of Busselton Mayor Grant Henley said it would be “disastrous” if the road wasn’t soon dualled.
“With the Bunbury Outer Ring Road being built and more funding announced towards it, it will result in more traffic coming this way which will simply exacerbate the existing problem around Capel,” Mr Henley said.
“There is a bottleneck situation where people have to merge, people who are going 110km/h and used to dual lanes, this is why we have so many accidents and it needs to be addressed.
“This is not just an issue at long weekends, this has grown to be every weekend, every evening with people travelling between Bunbury and Busselton for work and we have a situation where the road is at risk of failing.”
Forrest MHR Nola Marino told the Times unless the State Government committed funding, upgrades would not happen.
“I’ve written to the WA Transport Minister (Rita Saffioti) asking her to prioritise this project,” Mrs Marino said.
“Unfortunately, WA Labor have proven time and again that this project isn’t a priority of the State Government and unless the State Government come to the table with funding, this project will not progress.
“I have been fighting to upgrade the Bussell Highway for many years and I will continue to do so.”
Vasse MLA Libby Mettam also called on the State Government to listen to the independent advice being offered and dual the road to reduce the incidence and severity of crashes.
While Ms Saffioti said the State Government was “disappointed” the Federal Government had not committed any funding.
“The State Government understands the keenness from the South West community to get the Bussell Highway upgrade under way and we are currently considering our options for the upgrade,” she said.
“It is worth noting the McGowan Government allocated record funding to roads in WA regions as part of last State Budget, which will continue as part of the upcoming Budget.”
Collie-Preston MLA Mick Murray blamed the previous Liberal-National government for leaving the highway “untouched”, saying that decision was “absolutely appalling”.
“It’s my strong view that the previous government got it completely wrong and should have made it safer for drivers to get to Margaret River instead of putting a road around Margaret River,” Mr Murray said.
“I do agree that this area should be upgraded but we’ll have to wait for funds to become available.”
Mr Scott said something had to happen.
“It is no good blaming each other, government has got to get together and make it happen,” he said.
“One thing is for certain, I won’t be on the roads, or that road, this weekend.”
Bussell Highway was joined in the riskiest regional road list by Kaloorrup Road in Vasse, which came in at No.7. The survey also revealed the South West was also home to six of the 10 riskiest regional intersections in the State, including Dunsborough’s Cyrillean Way and Dunn Bay Road intersection, Capel’s Bussell Highway and Tuart Drive intersection and West Busselton’s King Street and Bussell Highway intersection.
Last year WA recorded the worst road fatality rate of any mainland State in Australia, with 161 deaths over all.
The toll put WA’s fatality rate at 33 per cent higher than the national average, with the majority of deaths taking place on regional roads.
RAC general manager corporate affairs Will Golsby said RAC was calling for an $800 million regional road safety package to be delivered over the next 10 years.
“With a road fatality rate six times higher than Perth, nowhere is the devastation more apparent than regional WA,” he said.