Byron?s ?mini-bypass? plan under attack from ChamberMinister to consider issue next week
By SAMANTHA TURNBULL
CHAMBER of Commerce president Greg Owens is afraid the Byron Shire Council will abandon 17 years of work if it chooses a 'mini bypass' of the town.
Mr Owens has asked State Transport Minister John Watkins if a chamber representative can attend a NSW Level Crossings Strategy Council meeting in Sydney next Thursday to lobby against building a crossing near the Byron Bay Railway Station.
The Minister will respond to the request early next week.
Original bypass plans, backed by the Chamber of Commerce, would see traffic cross the railway line further south near Mitre 10.
A proposal for a smaller bypass that crosses the railway line near the train station and spills into Jonson Street next to Legend Pizza was first suggested in 1997 and supported by Cr Richard Staples.
The option is the same route put in place by the council every New Year's Eve to keep vehicles out of the town centre.
However, Cr Staples said the council, as a whole, had not decided between the 'mini' option and original plans for a larger bypass.
"The council has two proposals before them and the mini bypass could actually be built as a stage of the bigger one," he said.
"The Greens do have a lot of concern about the bigger option and hydrology, flooding, cost and it's overall effectiveness.
"A lot of land acquisition would need to take place for the bigger bypass.
"But nothing has been decided yet.
"We don't have the funding."
Those concerns have outraged Mr Owens.
"We've been pushing hard for the proper bypass and the council has been pushing for a mini bypass," he said.
"We believe there are safety issues with a mini bypass.
"We want the proper, original bypass.
"The council's mini bypass option will feed more traffic into the CBD.
"This whole exercise would be so much easier if the council cooperated with us.
"Byron needs a bypass, let's work together to achieve an outcome."
The Transport Minister experienced the town's traffic problems first-hand on Monday morning while driving through Jonson Street on his way to a community transport conference near Belongil Beach.
"Traffic is obviously gridlocked in the town," Mr Watkins said.
"I've heard vehicles can be backed up to the highway during holiday time."
He vowed to put the Byron Bay bypass on the State Government's agenda and ask the Roads and Traffic Authority about funding for the project.
However, he said the council must come up with a route for the bypass by deciding where the town's second rail crossing would be built.
"It's the council's responsibility to bring an option forward," he said.
"It seems clear another rail crossing would provide some re- lief, but it depends on the council and where they think that should go before this is resolved."
The final route may also depend on the results of a State Government working party's recommendation on what to do with the railway line.
Mr Watkins has ruled out bringing back the Casino to Murwillumbah XPT, but said the working party may suggest a light rail commuter service or the return of freight trains.
The working party's recommendation is expected to be released by the end of the year.
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