By Brendan Rees
A decision by VicRoads to reduce the speed limit on the South Gippsland Highway as a temporary measure from Friday 8 September comes as a great relief to the Casey community.
The change of speed limit follows a fatal car crash in which teenager Xinyu Yuan, 14 and her mother Ma Li Dai, 44, died on the South Gippsland Highway at 7.30pm on Wednesday, 9 August, as they were leaving Lighthouse Christian College.
VicRoads Regional Director for Metro South East, Aidan McGann, said VicRoads would temporarily set the speed limit to 80km/h for an 800 metre stretch of the South Gippsland Highway outside the Lighthouse Christian College.
“In the coming weeks, we will be seeking community feedback on permanent improvement options for this location and a broader 4.5km stretch of the South Gippsland Highway between north of Ballarto Road and Clyde Road,” he said.
“VicRoads recognises the rapid growth of the school and increasing turning movements into and from properties adjacent to the South Gippsland Highway, south of Cranbourne, which has contributed to our review of the conditions around this school,” Mr McGann said.
Cranbourne Lighthouse Christian College Principal Jacob Matthews said he was delighted about the decision from VicRoads.
“This is what we have been campaigning for. We had about 3600 signatures with more still coming in. Media and the public have been helpful. One of our parents went around the neighbourhood from Mayfield to Five Ways, and all supported the reduction of speed,” he said.
“VicRoads has said this reduction is the first step while they do community consultation.I believe that this reduction of speed will improve road safety.”
Casey Mayor Sam Aziz applauded VicRoads for reducing the speed limit adding it was “long overdue.”
“This is great news for the entire community. I want to take the opportunity to congratulate the school community who have advocated for this very strongly but also an opportunity to congratulate the great work that our officers have done under the leadership of Ms Ward and her department to achieve this outcome,” he said.
“I am delighted that it has finally happened and I’m also hopeful that it will mark a change in the safety conditions in that stretch of road and that we will not see a single tragedy anymore as a result of this action. I wish it has happened before, but I’m glad it is happening now.”
Cranbourne Lighthouse Christian College Pastor Philip Cayzer also welcomed the new speed limit.
“It’s a very good thing to have happened. It’s been a shame that it’s taken so long obviously for VicRoads to communicate with us,” he said.
Pastor Cayzer said he was hopeful the road would be a lot safer.
“It’s still going to be dependent on upon the road users actually obeying the actual new speed limit,” Pastor Cayzer said.
“The school actually has been designed so that we have the capacity of holding more traffic on-site, so there’s never been an issue of children on the highway or anything. It’s always been a very safe school community. It’s just been the actual highway entry that’s been in question,” he said.
VicRoads will install additional warning signs, paint fresh line markings and removing vegetation in the centre median to improve sight-lines.
In 2016 VicRoads reviewed the road and determined that due to the nature of the access, turning movement, volumes on the road and previous improvements made to the intersection, that the 100km/h speed limit was appropriate at that time.
No fatalities had been recorded on this section of the highway prior to the double fatality in August this year.
In mid-2017 VicRoads acquired a new risk assessment tool which has been applied to this section of highway to analyse the speed based on a number of factors including the road environment, road width, abutting development, types of road users, existing speeds, safety records and adjacent speed zones.
Mr McGann said VicRoads would be using this evidence in conjunction with community consultation to develop any permanent speed options for this section of the South Gippsland Highway.