Albanese calls for action on Hwy
THE STATE Government must pull its weight on the Pacific Highway dual-carriageway upgrade, Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese warned in Ballina on Saturday.
“It has got to reconsider its position in the lead up to the next election,” he said.
While the NSW Government’s $500 million contribution to the upgrade pales in comparison to the Federal Government’s $3.1 billion, the NSW Regional Development Minister Ian Macdonald told Ballina, Richmond Valley, Clarence and Coffs Harbour mayors last Thursday to go see Mr Albanese for the money.
The mayors have been lobbying the State Government to fix the notoriously deadly stretch between Coffs Harbour and Ballina where 20 people die each year.
While Mr Albanese would not comment on where the estimated $6 billion dollar shortfall for the project would come from, he did call on the State Government to put back the $300 million funding it pulled in the wake of the global financial crisis.
“The economy is starting to recover and I’ve written to the State Government asking them to reconsider,” he said.
“It’s pretty clear that we need to upgrade this road, and that it’s a matter of urgency.
“All levels of government need to put their shoulder to the wheel to make sure we achieve the joint objective of full duplication by 2016.”
Mr Albanese was all smiles as he announced the chosen design for the Teven Road gateway interchange on the Ballina bypass with the Federal member for Page Janelle Saffin, Ballina Shire councillors David Wright and Alan Brown, the RTA’s general manager of the Pacific Highway, Bob Higgins, and members of the Ballina Bypass Alliance.
He also took the opportunity to fire a first shot at the newly appointed shadow infrastructure minister Barnaby Joyce.
“We’ve put in at the national level $3.1 billion (for the Pacific Highway) – which compares to the previous government’s $1.3 billion for the same period – but there’s a threat to that money,” he said.
“The new shadow infrastructure minister called for a wind-back of Federal Government spending when he was shadow finance minister and I’m calling on Barnaby to make sure that he commits to not winding back any of the Federal Government’s nation building program if they are elected to government later this year.”
Ms Saffin added that the project supported 1800 direct jobs locally, plus another 5700 indirectly.
“Once the bypass is up and running there are five roundabouts they won’t have to go through; the trucks won’t have to go through town and it will take about 12 minutes off their travel time,” she said.
The bypass is on schedule for completion in 2012.