WE WERE THERE: Ballina and Alstonville's battle for bypasses
WE WERE THERE is a series that revisits The Northern Star's in-depth coverage of the major events that have shaped the Northern Rivers over the past 20 years. Today, we look back at the paper's reporting of the successful community battles for the Ballina and Alstonville bypasses.
WHEN it comes to major road projects on the Northern Rivers, none have been as strongly fought for as the Alstonville and Ballina bypasses, and The Northern Star backed these campaigns all the way.
On May 28, 2011, the $100 million Alstonville bypass opened to traffic, a significant occasion which changed life for residents and businesses on the Plateau.
It was the result of a 40-year community campaign.
In 2007 we reported on the promise from then Labor leader Kevin Rudd to fund both the Ballina and Alstonville bypasses, and 48 hours later the Federal Coalition made the same commitment.
This meant both projects would go ahead, no matter who was elected.
The first sod was turned in April 2009 and, as work progressed, we spoke to business owners who feared their trade would diminish once the traffic was diverted.
But now, thanks to the council-funded beautification of the village's main street, Alstonville is a thriving community.
The 12km Ballina bypass cost a total of $640 million.
Work started in 2008, following years of lobbying and cost blow-outs. The final section opened to traffic in 2012.
The main section between Teven Rd and Cumbalum opened in November 2011, following the opening of the northern section, from Cumbalum to Ross Lane, in March of that year.
The southbound Teven bridge on the Ballina bypass opened in December 2011, and the northbound bridge opened in early 2012.
Noisy trucks have now mostly been removed from the CBD, leading to less traffic problems and safer roads.
At the time, then Ballina MP Don Page told The Northern Star that 400 people had been killed on the highway near Ballina over a 15-year period, and that the bypass would save lives.
It also means drivers don't have to negotiate five roundabouts and multiple traffic lights to get through Ballina.
Grab tomorrow's paper to see how we covered the murder of German backpacker Simone Strobel.