More, please: Road works at the Pacific Highway’s Ballina Bypass, at the Ross Lane interchange.
More, please: Road works at the Pacific Highway’s Ballina Bypass, at the Ross Lane interchange. David Nielsen

Highway deadline set to whiz by

DOUBT has been cast over the State and Federal gov-ernments’ chances of meeting their self-imposed 2016 deadline to finish the Pacific Highway upgrade.

Speaking on the eve of NSW Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell’s tour of the highway, Ballina MP Don Page, Clarence MP Steve Cansdell and Coffs Harbour mayor Keith Rhoades yesterday all questioned the governments’ ability to convert all of Australia’s most dangerous road to dual carriageway within six years.

“Currently the project’s funding runs out in 2014 and there’s no financial plan between the State and Federal governments for funding for the completion of the highway to dual carriageway to make the 2016 deadline,” Cr Rhoades said.

That meant the governments still had to find the $6 billion needed to cover the sections of highway that would need to be done over those two years.

Mr Page and Mr Cansdell both said the upgrade was a high priority for the NSW Coalition, but could guarantee a Coalition government would meet the deadline.

“It’s taken us 14 years to get half of it dual carriageway. It’s hard to believe we’ll actually do the other half in six years,” Mr Page said.

Mr O’Farrell will thisafternoon fly into Ballina before being taken on a bus tour of the highway, at the invitation of the mayors on the Pacific Highway taskforce.

The tour, which will include commentary on accident sites from a paramedic, will run from Ballina to Grafton to Coffs Harbour before heading back to Grafton.

It will also include a stop at the site of the October 1989 Cowper bus crash, in which 21 people were killed and another 22 injured.

Mr Page and Mr Cansdell said they did not expect Mr O’Farrell would make any policy or funding announcements on the highway during the tour.



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