A Ballina by pass At Last!
By BARRY CHEADLE
BALLINA residents yesterday received an early Christmas present with the news the town's longawaited bypass had been funded to the tune of $271 million.
Federal Roads Minister Lloyd and State counterpart Joe Tripodi jointly announced the bypass within a new $960 million Pacific Highway works project, saying that tolls may be charged to help fund an $8 billion highway upgrade all the way to the Queensland border.
State Member for Ballina Don Page and bypass action group spokesman Cr Alan Brown welcomed the announcement. "I can't think of a better Christmas present," Cr Brown said.
Mr Page said the announcement was 'a terrific Christmas present' for the Ballina community.
However, residents will still have a lengthy wait before the bypass is completed. Mr Lloyd described the Ballina bypass as 'an engineering challenge, not a funding issue'.
Mr Page said: "Mr Lloyd said building the Ballina bypass would be technically difficult and it would be a further six to seven years before a bypass could be completed across the soft soils of the Richmond River floodplain.
"However, he said that 20 of the 38 properties required for the bypass had been bought at market rates and the process of acquiring the remaining properties would be accelerated to allow construction to start as soon as possible."
Cr Brown said the announcement was 'due to the pressure we've put on government over many years'.
Mr Page said he was not in a position to comment on how the bypass approval would affect the four options for the TintenbarEwingsdale upgrade. Mr Lloyd's press release said a route selection study was under way for that section.
Meanwhile, further up the highway, Coastal Environment Protection Society chairman Jack Harper, a spokesman for residents opposing the upgrade of the Tintenbar to Ewingsdale section, said of the announcement that private and public funding, and possibly tolls, could be used to fast-track the highway upgrade: "They should be looking at the inland option (the suggested Summerland Way route for interstate freight traffic).
"They want to come in and entomb local residents, take their land and make a profit on that. It's not fair."
However, he said his group would welcome the Ballina bypass even if the inland route was chosen. "They've suffered long enough," he said.
Mr Harper said he would not oppose a tollway, provided it was in a better location ? that is, the inland route.
The Northern Rivers Regional Organisation of Councils (NOROC) welcomed yesterday's memorandum of understanding to fasttrack the highway upgrade, but said it was disappointed there was no new money in the announcement.
Pacific Highway Taskforce chairman Cr Ernie Bennett said the signing was a big step forward, but added: "The Federal Treasury is awash with cash ? that would have been a good place to start looking for the funds to speed up construction of this vital piece of infrastructure."