Roads upgrade under pressure

COUNCILS need secure and recurrent funding from the Federal and State governments if they are to be able to upgrade their roads to cope with the soaring Northern Rivers population, Byron Shire Mayor Jan Barham has said.

Cr Barham said Byron Shire’s roads bill was estimated to be growing at the rate of about $7 million a year, leaving the council battling to raise funds to manage maintenance of the council area’s roads.

Those roads are likely to come under increasing pressure over the coming 26 years with the State Government saying it expects the shire’s population to jump 44 per cent to more than 44,000 residents.

To the north of Byron, Tweed Shire is expected to explode, with a 59pc increase leaving it with nearly 132,000 residents, and to the south Ballina is tipped to grow 39pc to 56,200 residents.

Despite those growth figures, council roads budgets were subsisting from grant to grant as they fought for State and Federal funding to fix everything from black spots to country bridges.

“This is why local government has been asking for a greater share of funding from the Federal Government,” Cr Barham said.

Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell has said councils wanted a referendum, asking Australians to give them constitutional recognition and a legitimate share of tax revenues.

Cr Dowell said there needed to be greater attention given to the Bruxner Highway and the traffic volumes that were already clogging it in Lismore.

Cr Dowell said Lismore needed two more river crossings, to the south and the north of the existing bridges, to help take pressure off the main road.

“The work that’s being done on the Pacific Highway has certainly increased traffic on the Pacific Highway ... but there are some parts of the Bruxner Highway, where it is Ballina Road, that have higher traffic numbers than some parts of the Pacific Highway,” she said.

That high traffic load meant parts of the road were physically impossible for pedestrians to safely cross because cars were so close together.

Cr Dowell , who is also head of the Northern Rivers Regional Organisation of Councils, said the councils had put in their ideas for a regional transport plan, which was now with the Federal Government.

Other issues included the need for a northern road connecting to Warwick, that would help carry freight between the Northern Rivers and Queensland.

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