Call for Albany Highway changes

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Albany councillor Robert Sutton believes Albany Highway should be turned into a dual carriageway.
Camera IconAlbany councillor Robert Sutton believes Albany Highway should be turned into a dual carriageway. Credit: Laurie Benson

Upgrading Albany Highway would cut road danger and driving times, and give industries a boost according to one Albany councillor who wants it widened to a four-lane motorway.

Days after the State Government proposed rolling back country speed limits to 100km/h, Robert Sutton said the answer to reducing road deaths was better roads.

“We’re going to reduce the speed limit rather than saying ‘let’s fix the problem’,” Mr Sutton said.

“Perth people would not stand for it, so why are we different?”

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Mr Sutton, who spoke as a private citizen and not as a City of Albany representative, said Albany Highway should mimic the four-lane Forrest Highway linking Mandurah and Bunbury.

Forrest Highway is a 110km/h motorway with two two-lane roads separated by a nature strip.

He said Albany Highway’s close passing distances and mixed single and double lanes fostered impatience and road rage.

Main Roads data claims at their peak some sections of Albany Highway average 4800 vehicles per day, with RAC recording 17 fatal crashes from 2013-2017.

The Forrest Highway, which carries 23,000 vehicles a day, had eight fatalities in the same period.

Former Main Roads regional manager Brett Bellstead said opening the Forrest Highway cut accidents in the region by up to 50 per cent.

However, expanding Albany Highway would present logistical problems — not least given the distances between rural towns.

A motorway may need to reduce through towns, or bypass them, which could devastate businesses reliant on highway traffic.

In terms of the price tag, the Forrest Highway, only 90km long, cost taxpayers $700 million.

As Albany Highway is 400km long, a similar expansion could cost billions of dollars.

Mr Sutton proposed money could be brought in by increasing charges to mining companies and toll booths.

The one-time National Party candidate said he would not contest the next State election but urged future candidates to “think a bit differently”.

“Unless we change our thinking in 20 years we’re going to be doing the same thing,” he said.

However, Main Roads regional manager Andrew Duffield gave the proposal the red light, claiming Albany Highway was not busy enough to warrant such an upgrade.

“The current traffic volumes on Albany Highway between Albany and Perth are well below the point where construction of a dual carriageway is required,” he said.

“A dual carriageway would require very significant funding to address road construction costs, bridge duplication, service relocation, land acquisition and environmental approvals for the clearing required.”

Mr Duffield said in recent years Albany Highway had been widened and had audible edge lines installed, had increased passing lanes and better rest bays to improve driver safety.

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