Bypass opening 'landmark' day
TRUCKS tooted and bypass workers cheered when the ribbon was cut on stage two of the $640 million Ballina bypass yesterday.
It is estimated the bypass will take 1500 trucks and 6500 cars a day off Ballina's streets, while saving countless lives on the Pacific Hwy.
The section opened yesterday includes the "bypass" element of the new road. The southern section of the bypass, including the interchange at the Bruxner Hwy, is still under construction.
"This is an early Christmas present for all who live in Ballina and all who travel up and down the Pacific Hwy this festive season," said Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese.
Mr Albanese acknowledged Ballina locals' long wait for the bypass, which was first approved in 2003.
"For years there was a lot of talk, not much funding and not much action, but we are committed to make sure we get rid of the buck passing and politics and just get on with the job," he said.
The bypass was jointly funded by the Federal ($450 million) and NSW ($190 million) governments and is considered a milestone in efforts to rebuild the entire highway from Sydney to the Queensland border.
Ballina MP Don Page said the bypass opening was a "landmark day" for the North Coast.
"We've lost about 400 people in the past 15 years and this bypass will save so many lives because with divided carriageway you just don't have so many accidents," he said.
About 1800 workers were directly involved with the project, which finished six months ahead of schedule.
Project safety manager Brendon Luke said many of those who worked on the bypass would seek employment on the Tintenbar-to-Ewingsdale highway upgrade, which is scheduled for completion in 2014.
"We're all looking to find a new job so there's that conundrum, but we're also very proud of what we've achieved," he said.
The Ballina bypass means regular users of the Pacific Hwy will no longer have to negotiate five roundabouts and multiple traffic lights through Ballina, which added up to 12 minutes to a typical journey.
Page MP Janelle Saffin said she was delighted to see the bypass finally taken off the "wish list".