‘Passing lane’ hazard concern

‘Passing lane’ hazard concern

Millicent farmers Graham Sapiatzer and Lou Gardin fear a hazard for motorists and stock will be created if the state transport department proceeds with plans to build a passing lane on the Princes Highway at Hatherleigh.

Although the farming pair are not opposed in principle to passing lanes, the designated location is where they have their stock crossing point.

Their sheep flock numbers in the many hundreds and they are required to move them across the Princes Highway up to nine times a year to their yards and sheds for the purpose of marking, drenching, crutching and shearing.

Mr Sapiatzer is a sixth-generation farmer whose family has been in the area since the 1870s.

He said the pair already faced difficulties when shifting stock across the highway.

“We have flashing lights on our vehicles and erect ‘stock on road’ signs, but they are ignored by many motorists,” Mr Sapiatzer said.

“The situation is going to get much worse when the passing lane will create an extra lane.

“Motorists will not be looking out for signs and sheep – they will be intent on passing other vehicles via the passing lane.

“There is 110km of mostly straight highway between Millicent and Kingston and I cannot see why the transport department had to use the very spot where we have our stock crossing.

“The land here gets too wet for an underpass.

“We have tried to make contact with the transport department and been referred to Adelaide then Naracoorte, then Murray Bridge and then back to Adelaide.”

Ms Gardin said they also could not use their sheep dogs to get sheep across the highway.

“The dogs only have their eyes on the sheep and are not paying attention to vehicles,” Ms Gardin said.

“We know of farmers who have had their dogs struck by vehicles when moving stock.”

Mr Sapiatzer and Ms Gardin are grateful for the efforts of local Liberal MP for MacKillop Nick McBride and his electorate staff who lobbied the transport department on their behalf.

In his letter to Transport Minister Tom Koutsantonis, Mr McBride said he recognised the importance of the Princes Highway as a major freight route.

“While I understand that overtaking lanes are important, they should not compromise the safety of conducting farming operations which have land and infrastructure on both sides of the highway,” Mr McBride said.

In his reply, Mr Koutsantonis said the selection of passing lane locations was based on road safety, design compliance, traffic volumes, relocation of utility services, location effectiveness, environment, heritage, land acquisition, constructibility and cost.

He said the location was selected as it has better existing road geometry and sight distances for road users than the other sites.

The minister said other nearby locations for the overtaking lanes would require land acquisition and impact on access to several properties.

“Please be assured that whenever proposing improvements to the road network, every effort is made to minimise impacts to the community where practically possible,” Mr Koutsantonis said.

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