Pacific Highway upgrade a priority

THE upgrade of the Pacific Highway between Ballina and Sydney has been identified as a priority infrastructure project in a new report.

The Infrastructure Australia Council presented the report to Federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese yesterday.

Sir Rod Eddington, chairman of Infrastructure Australia, said the report was about ‘getting the fundamentals right'.

“In light of the continued – and unprecedented – globaldemand for infrastructure, these recommendations areessential if Australia's infrastructure competitiveness is to be maintained,” he said.

The report defines the upgrade of the Pacific Highway as a national freight network issue.

It is also classified as a project that is ‘ready to proceed'.

However, there is still theissue of funding – the project needs about $6.67 billion.

“The Pacific Highway is amajor freight route and interstate link between Sydney and Brisbane and supports major growing population, industrial and export centres and gateways,” the report states.

“This highway continues to experience delays and congestion, as well as increasingdemand for improved access for commercial and social activity.”

But the Infrastructure Australia Council report is not binding, and the Government does not have to agree with its recommendations.

A spokeswoman for Page MP Janelle Saffin said the report confirmed that the upgrade of the highway was a priority.

“We know it's important, that's why we've already invested a lot of money in it,” she said.

The Pacific Highway upgrade is being jointly funded by the State and Federal governments.

The Federal Government has contributed $3.1 billion, with the State contributing $500 million.

So far just 305km of the 664km between Hexham and the border is finished.

But further funding options have not been identified.

The Federal Government did not provide any funding in its 2010/11 Budget.

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