2016 highway upgrade 'on track'

THE duplication of the Pacific Highway is still on track for completion by 2016, Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said yesterday.

He said statements that there was a funding shortfall for the program of between $6 billion and $7 billion by departmental secretary Mike Mrdak made during a Senate Estimates hearing were taken out of context.

“It's a misreporting of what Mr Mrdak said,” Mr Albanese said.

“What he said and we have always said is that this is a big requirement, and requires not just the FederalGovernment but the State Government to deliver on its commitment to full duplication,” he said.

In the May budget, the Federal Government allocated an additional $1 billion “and we know more will need to be done between now and 2016 by both the Federal and State governments.”

Mr Mrdak told the committee the Federal Government had committed $4.1 billion to the Pacific Highway upgrade in the current funding project, which ends in 2014, while the former NSW Labor government had invested $500 million.

“More money will need to be required,” Mr Albanese said yesterday after opening the Alstonville bypass.

“It is now 2011, we have a commitment by 2016.

“One of the problems we have is the NSW Government hasn't done the planning work.

“You need to do the planning work to know how much it will cost. You can't do that on the back of a Weet-Bix packet.

“The problem here is the former government didn't invest in the planning.”

In its May budget, the Federal Government announced it would fund the long-awaited duplication of the Pacific Highway between Tintenbar and Ewingsdale, continuing on from the Ballina bypass upgrade.



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