Convince Costa on bypass


ROADS Minister Michael Costa's reputation as a political hard man could help convince the Roads and Traffic Authority to reconsider its plans for the Pacific Highway.

Member for Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser, along with representatives of Coffs Harbour and Bellingen councils, will meet with Mr Costa on Wednesday to discuss the highway's future.

Mr Fraser said he would attempt to convince Mr Costa of the need to look again at the issues involved in planning the bypass of Coffs Harbour.

"For all his many faults, Mr Costa has a reputation for asking hard questions of the bureaucracy," he said.

"He is a hard-nosed politician and I'm sure he will appreciate the arguments we will put to him and on that basis ask the questions that need to be asked."

This week's meeting is a vital step in the campaign to have the RTA's plans for the highway reconsidered.

Last December, the RTA announced its preference for bypasses of Coffs Harbour and Woolgoolga to be linked by a widened highway between Sapphire and Woolgoolga.

Local response to the plan was less that cool, with Coffs Harbour mayor Cr Keith Rhoades slamming the plan, describing the actions of the RTA as 'shocking' and 'disgusting'.

There is also community disquiet in the Bellingen local government area at RTA options for the bypass of Urunga.

The Pine Creek bypass will be another issue discussed at Wednesday's meeting.

Mr Fraser said yesterday he would attempt to convince Mr Costa that the first thing that needs to be done is a new cost benefit analysis of the need for a bypass.

"The information being used by the RTA is flawed because it was done before the opening of the Chinderah bypass," he said.

"You don't have to be a genius to know that the amount of heavy vehicles using the highway has increased enormously since then.

"To put the route through West Coffs and up the highway from Sapphire is not good enough.

"I'll be telling Mr Costa 'Let's re-do the studies and look to see if there are other options that are viable'."

Following last week's fatal accident at Moonee, Mr Fraser said, the first step should be to upgrade the highway between Coffs Harbour and Woolgoolga.

While that was being done, plans could be formulated for a bypass of the entire city well to the west of the present route.

The building of major infrastructure such as the bypass required long-term thinking.

"Governments tend to think in terms of four-year periods but in this case they have to think about the next 40 years, at least," Mr Fraser said.

"When planning infrastructure that costs a billion dollars, there follows an obligation to come up with solutions that won't be revisited in 20 years.

"It has to be the right solution."

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