Whittlesea motorists are a step closer to a less congested commute, with work set to start on the long-awaited O’Herns Road upgrade.

The state government has announced that Maca Civil has been awarded the contract to build stage one of the $81 million upgrade.

The first stage of the project will replace the Epping roundabout at the intersection of O’Herns Road and High Street with traffic lights and a raised platform to improve safety.

Thomastown MP Bronwyn Halfpenny said the new traffic lights would be linked to the Epping fire station, allowing firefighters to get on the road quickly and safely.

“Local residents have been campaigning to replace this roundabout with traffic lights for years and I’m proud to say the Andrews Labor government is getting on with it and delivering the upgrades our community needs,” she said.

The second stage of the project will include building a new interchange at O’Herns Road to provide easier access to the Hume Freeway.

O’Herns Road will also be duplicated to four lanes through to the freeway, with new merging lanes, to help drivers safely enter and exit the freeway without interrupting traffic flow.

Ms Halfpenny said the interchange would help to relieve congestion and improve reliability and traffic flow through the area.

It is hoped the project will also help reduce congestion and improve safety on key arterial roads like Epping Road and Cooper, Miller and High streets.

Ms Halfpenny said the upgrade would create 40 jobs and encourage development of the local economy, including the Cooper Street employment precinct.

The upgrade is being funded by the state and federal governments.

Construction is expected to start early next year and be finished by late 2019.