THE Great Ocean Road needs at least $50 million from the federal and state governments to improve safety and access, councils in the region say.
This weekend is one of the busiest of the year for the famous road, with thousands of people returning to Melbourne from summer holidays, as well as thousands who headed to Lorne for Saturday's annual Pier to Pub swim.
Visitors to the area are likely to encounter large - and growing - traffic jams at Anglesea, where a roundabout in the centre of town often causes traffic to bank up for kilometres.
The threat of fires in the region - devastated by the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires - is also of concern, with the road the only major route in and out of many holiday towns, including Anglesea, Lorne and Aireys Inlet.
The G21 Geelong Region Alliance has been set up by five councils. One of its key projects for the ongoing prosperity of the region is a boost to funding for the Great Ocean Road.
Chief executive and former state Labor MP Elaine Carbines said the road received between $3 million and $3.5 million a year for maintenance, but with 7.2 million visitors a year and up to 20,000 vehicles a day using it during summer, more was needed.
"It's the jewel in the crown for the region," Ms Carbines said. "Given its value to the national tourism industry it needs federal funding."
Last month G21 wrote to federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese urging the Commonwealth to include the road on the National Land Transport Network and calling for $50 million over five years "in order to address the maintenance and improvement to maintain the structural integrity of this regional icon".
Canberra recognised the road's importance in 2011 when it was added to the National Heritage register.
The letter argues that the road fulfils the basic criteria for inclusion. These include "the development of international, interstate or inter-regional trade and commerce".
A similar letter was sent to state Roads Minister and local MP Terry Mulder urging the state government to support the push for national recognition. Mr Mulder backs the move for national funding.
The start of the Great Ocean Road runs through Australia's most marginal electorate, Corangamite, held by Labor's Darren Cheeseman by 300 votes. Campaigners want to make funding a key local issue for this year's election.
Mr Albanese said the Commonwealth already provided record funding for local roads through the Roads to Recovery program and that the national network was primarily for major freight routes.