Highway upgrade works on track
MOST local sections of the Pacific Highway will be upgraded within the next two years, according to the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority.
But there remains no projected costs or completion dates for crucial sections of the highway south of Ballina.
While workers toil to finish the Ballina bypass (to be completed in 2014) and the Sexton Hill upgrade at Banora Point (to be finished in 2012), the State Government has announced major steps forward in improving two other Far North Coast sections of the highway.
NSW Roads Minister David Borger said one of the most crucial parts of the highway upgrade south of Ballina – Devils Pulpit near New Italy – would be constructed ahead of the rest of the Iluka to Woodburn section and was on track to be completed in 2012.
North of Devils Pulpit, Mr Borger has announced a short-list of tenders for the Ewingsdale toTintenbar section.
The RTA is now deciding between construction companies Baulderstone, Leighton Contractors and Thiess to build the 16.3km highway stretch, which will include a 340-metre-long tunnel under the deadly St Helena hill. The successful tender is expected to be announced next year, with construction likely to begin early 2012 and finishing mid-2014.
That leaves only the Woodburn to Ballina stretch and the remainder of the Iluka to Woodburn section still up in the air – and with no immediate prospect of proceeding any time soon.
A spokeswoman for Mr Borger said RTA staff were still working on planning for the two projects.
There were no expected costfigures or completion dates available for either section, beyond the Federal Government’s previous commitment to upgrade the entire highway by 2016 – something NSW Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell has said he believes is not achievable.
The spokeswoman said $10 million in funding granted by the State Government in March was intended to get the concept plans for the road between Ballina and Woolgoolga ready for submission to the Government for planning approval.
The completion of the highway north of Byron Bay, and the slashing of speed limits on the St Helena hill, has left the Iluka to Woodburn section, in particular, as one of the Northern Rivers’ most dangerous patches of bitumen.
Described as the ‘tired zone’, the section has earned a reputation as a danger spot for drivers, particularly motorists trying to complete a trip up the highway from Sydney in a single run.