Inland route doubts
By DAWN COHEN
BALLINA mayor Phillip Silver has rejected Ballina MP Don Page's push for an inland Pacific Highway, claiming it would spell the end of the Ballina bypass.
"Even if the trucks were sent on a western path, we would have still have a considerable amount of coastal traffic through Ballina, and I can't believe any government would be able to do both a new western corridor and spend $270 million on the Ballina bypass," Cr Silver said yesterday.
However, Mr Page is adamant his proposal for a new highway route linking the Pacific Highway with the Summerland Way would not jeopardise the bypass.
"The Ballina bypass must proceed regardless," Mr Page said. "It already has State Coalition approval.
"Population growth, tourist traffic and safety needs ensure we are going to need it anyway.
"If I thought for a moment the new route would delay the bypass I would not support an inland highway.
"We have a unique opportunity to get the trucks off the coast.
"This proposal does that."
Meanwhile, Cr Silver plans to push for the upgrading of the current Pacific Highway at a Parliament House meeting this morning with NSW Roads Minister Joe Tripodi.
Also at the meeting will be NOROC chairman Cr Ernie Bennett, Independent Member for Port Macquarie Rob Oakeshott, and Coffs Harbour mayor Cr Keith Rhoades.
Cr Bennett said he had also invited Mr Page to discuss the inland route at a NOROC meeting on Friday.
"His proposal worries me because it could put the highway upgrade back a few more years," Cr Bennett said.
"Every year it is delayed could mean another 40 to 50 people could die on the highway."