Anger over PMs road pledge

By CHARLES WOOD

BALLINA bypass campaigner Alan Brown has accused the Federal Government of playing politics over its $2.4m pledge to upgrade the Pacfic Highway.

Earlier this week Prime Minister John Howard committed $2.4 billion to fast-track work on the highway, but according to a spokesperson for the shadow minister for transport and roads, Martin Ferguson, the offer is a deliberately vague one.

Labor claims that prior to the Federal election it will identify exactly where and how much funding it will spend on improvements, project by project.

Mr Brown, a Ballina Shire councillor, also criticised the Prime Minister's pledge.

"I'm disappointed with the way things are panning out, putting constraints on the State Government," he said.

Mr Howard would only specify a time frame for upgrades to the stretch between Woolgoolga by 2016, if the State Government matches the $2.4 billion in funds.

Mr Brown also wants a firm commitment from the State Government over a start date for the Ballina bypass. He claims work completed so far is only preliminary foundation laying and there's no reason why construction on other sections of the bypass couldn't be under way.

"People are dying and being injured. It's just not on," he said while on a road trip from Ballina to the Tweed yesterday.

While pleased with the Federal Government's latest pledge, NRMA motoring services director Wendy Machin hopes the NSW Government will up the ante.

"We plan to pressure the State Government to increase its commitment up to $2.4 billion," she said. Ms Machin said a recent inspection of black spots like Tintenbar brought home the need to fast-track improvements.



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