Highway funding date just a hollow promise

IT'S BEEN 20 years since the tragic bus crash at Cowper, and on December 22 we'll mark the 20th anniversary of the horrific Kempsey bus crash, which claimed 35 lives when two coaches collided head-on.

It was these terrible highway disasters that started the ball rolling on the political push to upgrade the Pacific Highway 'goat track' to a dual carriageway for its entire length.

Well, talk is cheap, and politicians - they come and go. To be fair, the Pacific Highway between Hexham and the Queensland border has changed an awful lot in the 20 years since the bus disasters, but there's still lots to do.

Now Federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese has waded into the debate by promising almost enough money to transform the main corridor between Melbourne and Brisbane before 2014.

Sounds great on the surface, but when reporter Dominic Feain probed deeper he found the promise is as hollow as all the rest.

To say that 85 per cent of the highway between Melbourne and Brisbane will be dual carriageway in five years' time is downright deceiving, because it nearly is already, if you focus on the road south of Port Macquarie. But what about the 25 per cent of the highway left unfinished through our region?

In fact, highway work will be concentrated on the area around Macksville and Urunga after the long-awaited Ballina bypass is finished.

What Far North Coast drivers want to know is when will works return to our corner - and when will the deadly section between Grafton and Ballina get a fair shake?

If you read between the Minister's lines, that date may be further away than we think.



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