Feds told to pay for work on highway

THE Federal Government should take responsibility for funding most of the Pacific Highway upgrade, North Coast mayors and the NRMA have said. Pacific Highway Task Force president Ernie Bennett and NRMA Motoring Services director Wendy Machin have called for the 50/50 State and Federal split on the highway to be abandoned and for the Commonwealth to take on three-quarters of the funding load for the highway. The call comes on the eve of this week's expected Commonwealth funding announcement for the highway and as Prime Minister John Howard prepares to visit Grafton on Wednesday. Cr Bennett and Ms Machin shied away from the idea of the Commonwealth taking total funding responsibility for the nation's busiest and most dangerous highway, saying it was important the State retains a financial stake in the road. Cr Bennett said taking funding responsibility from the State would worsen the 'blame game' politics that had dragged over much of the 17 years since then-Coroner Kevin Waller, in the wake of the Grafton and Kempsey bus crashes, described the highway as a 'goat track' and recommended it be upgraded to dual carriageway. Ms Machin said it was clear the NSW Government lacked the money to upgrade the highway quickly and the Federal Government had to take a heavier share of the load. Page Nationals candidate Chris Gulaptis said there would have to be guarantees the State Government would invest the saved funds into other road projects, such as upgrading the Bruxner Highway and the Lismore-Bangalow Road. Page Labor candidate Janelle Saffin said the key to getting the highway finished was co-operation between the tiers of government.



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