Community want certainty and progress on highway
By BELINDA SCOTT
WARREN Truss said the message he took away from yesterday's meeting with Coffs Harbour community groups was that the Pacific Highway upgrade was 'a primary order issue' and people wanted certainty, progress and action on it.
From there, the Federal Minister for Transport and Regional Services said the message became more diverse, with differing views about the route and upgrade level, but it was clear a short-term plan to improve traffic flow between Sapphire and Woolgoolga was urgently needed, as well as a dedicated corridor for the long term.
He said the meeting had been very constructive and would give Federal Government representatives more strength in their discussions with the NSW Government.
Mr Truss said what the Federal Government needed to know in order to commit money to highway upgrade projects was information on traffic flows and cost-benefit analyses of the different projects 'and these (Pacific Highway upgrade) projects stack up well'.
He said some effort was made to include social factors in the economic equations used for cost-benefit analysis and 'icons' would be protected.
Mr Truss said while the Federal Government depended on the States to rate projects, they had committed to a four-lane highway between Sydney and Brisbane by 2016 and expected to hear the first results within months of investigations on ways to fund the backlog of this work, which he said would cost $8-$10 billion.
Mr Truss said private partnerships would be considered as part of that investigation.
The Federal Member for Cowper, Luke Hartsuyker, who organised the meeting with Mr Truss, said he had invited a wide cross-section of organisations and individuals to the meeting in his electoral office.
"I was interested in having people who were going to make a constructive contribution," Mr Hartsuyker said.
Community groups, councillors, business interests, media representatives, the Punjabi Sikh community, Bypass Action Network, (BAN) and Orara Valley representatives were among those who talked with the Minister and Mr Hartsuyker.