By DAVID MOASE
COFFS HARBOUR'S 'missing link' ? the Hogbin Drive extension ? could be in place by the end of 2007 after the three levels of government yesterday agreed to meet its $15 million price tag.
The 1.4 kilometres of roadway, from the Albany Street roundabout in the south to the Orlando Street/Hogbin Drive intersection in the north, is intended to be a vital arterial road through the city and to take some of the traffic stress away from the Pacific Highway.
Plans for the extension were thrown into chaos late last month when the city council's City Facilities Plan crashed and burned after the rejection of its request for a 22 per cent rates rise.
Continued lobbying by the mayor, Cr Keith Rhoades, Federal member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker and State MP Andrew Fraser kept the project alive and saw all three men smiling yesterday.
The council, and the State and Federal governments will each contribute $5 million to the project.
"It could be a long time before we see an agreement between all levels of government like this again," Cr Rhoades said.
"It just goes to show that if you want an outcome but you can't do it all yourself, you can sit down with the stakeholders in the process, talk about the issues, not rip the living daylights out of one another, and come up with a solution.
"On Wednesday night the six councillors who were available got together and I was able to say we are in a position where we can have the $10 million if we can find $5 million.
"It will come from loan funds, which we can borrow.
"The downside is that over the next 15 years we have to repay that, so about $300,000 each year is going to have to come from the general fund.
"The importance of this project to our local traffic, however, far outweighs other things we may lose."
The council's acting general manager, Stephen Sawtell, said that by the year 2011, a completed Hogbin Drive would take about 15,000 vehicles a day off the Pacific Highway.
It will make travelling easier for residents in the northern and southern sections of the city and direct traffic away from the Jetty strip.
Mr Hartsuyker says both residents and holiday makers will see the benefits of more vehicles using Hogbin Drive.
"It will improve the amenity down at the Jetty where you've got all of that outside dining," he said.
"Getting rid of the through traffic from there will make the ambience better and reduce the amount of congestion, particularly at Christmas time."
Mr Fraser said the eventual completion of Hogbin Drive did not alleviate the need for a far western bypass of Coffs Harbour.
"I still give an absolute commitment to the people of the Coffs area that a proper bypass will be a priority of the NSW Coalition when returned to government at the 2007 election," he said.
Mr Sawtell said the council had been working on the design component of the project for about 12 months and would now start community consultation.