Highway deadline in doubt

NRMA President, Wendy Machin welcomed the State Governments $1.5 billion commitment but says it will not be enough to complete the duplication of the highway by the deadline.Funding provided in the State Budget for the Pacific Highway of $1.5 billion, coupled with Federal funding, represents around 70 percent of the funding needed to finish the highway, according to NRMA Motoring & Services.

NRMA Motoring & Services President, Wendy Machin said the NRMA welcomed the State Governments $1.5 billion commitment but it would not be enough to complete the duplication of the highway by the deadline.

“While we welcome the new funding, we know North Coast motorists will be disappointed that the deadline remains doubtful,” said Ms Machin.

“The Pacific Highway is one of the most dangerous roads in the country and accounts for around one-third of fatalities on the National Network.

“If we are to see this project complete by the 2016 deadline, both Governments must come to an agreement on how they will fund the remaining $2.5 billion needed to finish the project.

“In the NRMA’s recent Red Flag survey, motorists across the state voted the Pacific Highway the worst road in NSW for the second year in a row.

“We urge the Federal Government to make their $3.56 billion contribution unconditional and encourage both State and Federal Ministers to work together to find the additional money. Both governments made the 2016 deadline election commitments.”

“Newly announced projects on the Pacific Highway that have received planning money are from Urunga to Nambucca Heads and Nambucca Heads to Warrell Creek.

Funding for NSW roads has fallen to $4.9 billion from $5.3 billion last year.

Federal Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese said his Government allocated $3.56 billion in the Federal Budget to the Nation Building Program on adollar-for-dollar basis for the Pacific Highway.

“It is clear from the the State Budget that the State Government has not matched that,” he said. “It is a tragedy that the 2016 deadline cannot be met.”

Mr Albanese said that to suggest the Commonwealth should fund the Pacific Highway by ourselves was to effectively suggest the other states shouldn’t get their bit. “In the last Federal Budget we had two new initiates: Goodwood to Torrens with the South Australian Government, 50-50 funding; Majura Parkway with the ACT Government, 50-50 funding.”

Asked if the other $2 billion of the money set aside the Federal Budget would potentially go to other state premiers, he said: “There are lots of roads and there are lots of premiers who want a cooperative relationship …”

NSW Roads Minister, Duncan Gay today called on Mr Albanese to confirm the availability of all the funding it announced as part of the Federal Budget “so that NSW can get on with the job of delivering the important Pacific Highway upgrade”.

“As part of the NSW State Budget and in line with the current State/Federal funding split, NSW has confirmed its commitment to an additional $1.54 billion of future funding towards the completion of the Pacific Highway duplication,” Mr Gay said.

“This $1.54 billion represents 20 percent of the remaining funding needed to complete the Pacific Highway duplication.”

Mr Gay said that unfortunately, as part of its budget, the Federal Government reduced its funding commitment from 80 percent to 50 percent of additional funding required to complete the duplication, putting the Prime Minister’s goal of completing the Pacific Highway by 2016 at serious risk.

Chairman of the Pacific Highway Taskforce, Cr Richie Williamson says procrastination by both governments in not agreeing on a funding formula is putting highway residents and users lives at risk.

Cr Williamson said there was no existing funding agreement between the Commonwealth and the State. “In the past, funding for the Pacific Highway has been provided on a project by project basis and has not depended on any guidelines.”

“For example, the Urunga duplication, a $60 million project, has Commonwealth funding of $54 million a 90/10 split, the Bulahdelah bypass a $315 million project has a Commonwealth contribution of $303 million a 96/4 split, the Ballina bypass a $640 million project has Commonwealth funding of $450 million a 70/30 split, and the Devils Pulpit upgrade a $77 million project has Commonwealth Funding of $62 million a 80/20 split”.

He said the Highway Taskforce was urging both the Commonwealth and State Governments to stop playing politics and to urgently enter into a funding agreement for construction works from 2014 that was financially viable and fair to both and to develop and publish a timeline outlining projects and funding needed to complete the dual carriageway construction of the highway

“Stop the buck passing and come to an agreement,” says Cr Williamson. “Peoples lives are more important than scoring political points.”

The State Opposition accused the Government of breaking its election promise and delaying the duplication of the Highway for the indefinite future.

“The Government promised to match $3.5 billion in federal government funding to duplicate the Pacific Highway in Opposition, but now we have seen the $2 billion needed for the project slashed in the State Budget,” Mr Robertson said.

“Duncan Gay was unequivocal about matching federal funding to duplicate the Pacific Highway when in opposition:

“Yes I will match that money and save the lives of people in NSW that have to use this highway.” … Duncan Gay, ABC News 10 October 10, 2007

“The Pacific Highway could have been duplicated by 2016 had the O’Farrell Government kept their election promise and matched the $3.56 billion in Commonwealth funding for the project,” said Shadow Roads Minister, Robert Furolo.

“Instead we have seen only $1.5 billion funded by the O’Farrell Government – $2 billion less than what they committed to in Opposition when they said they would match the funding to see the highway duplicated by 2016,” he said.

“This is a broken promise of epic proportions. After demanding immediate action to address the horrific road toll on the Pacific Highway for years, it almost defies belief that the NSW Government is now refusing to fund the duplication.

“Where are the North Coast National Party MPs who campaigned on the duplication of the Pacific Highway in Opposition and are now failing to deliver in government?” he asked.

“Don Page, Chris Gulaptis, Thomas George, Geoff Provest, Andrew Fraser, Leslie Williams, Stephen Bromhead and Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner – who are supposed to represent the residents living alongside the Pacific Highway – should be hanging their heads in shame.”

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