The $852 million Bunbury Outer Ring Road is one step closer to reality, with Southwest Connex Alliance named as the preferred proponent to design and build the project. Work will include the design and construction of 27km of four-lane dual carriageway connecting Forrest Highway at Australind to Bussell Highway at Gelorup and 20km of new and upgraded local government roads. Main Roads and the alliance (comprising Acciona, WA company NRW Contracting, MACA Civil AECOM and Aurecon) will now negotiate before a contract is awarded, which is anticipated for September. Construction will begin early next year, following the contract and environmental approvals. Thousands of direct and indirect jobs are expected to be created by the BORR construction — the biggest infrastructure project ever undertaken in regional WA, according to Transport Minister Rita Saffioti. “Maximising local business procurement and Aboriginal participation are key objectives for the project and we have set a target of approximately $300 million to be allocated to local businesses to subcontract,” she said. Environmental approvals are currently being sought for the northern and central sections separately from the southern section, for which the proposal will be available for public comment later this year. Capel shire president Michael Southwell said he was “at a loss” and “gobsmacked” upon hearing the announcement, and questioned why a decision seemed to be made when environmental approval was still to come. “I’m mystified by the apparent disregard for the environmental processes which are part of State Government planning procedures as far as I’m aware,” he said. Cr Southwell said the BORR was probably the biggest government infrastructure project people in the Capel shire would see and he felt they were being ignored. “Whether we’re wasting our time or not, we’ll continue to use the environmental appeals process to have hopefully somebody listen to us,” he said. A Main Roads spokesman said the process was under way because procurement of major construction contracts took about 12 months to complete. “Construction of the project remains subject to all necessary environmental and heritage approvals being obtained. This is consistent with any major project in which procurement may potentially present a longer timeframe than its statutory approvals,” he said.