Dear Mr Costa

Congratulations on your recent appointment as Roads Minister.

While your new portfolio is bound to include many important issues, may we take this opportunity to draw your attention to the future of the Pacific Highway in the Coffs Harbour area.

To say efforts to improve the highway from south of Coffs Harbour to north of Woolgoolga have been a long-running saga is putting the issue mildly.

Even your own Roads and Traffic Authority acknowledges residents of the Coffs Coast have been calling for a western bypass for more than 20 years.

While everyone wants to see a solution put in place as soon as possible, IT HAS TO BE THE RIGHT SOLUTION ? one that stands the test of both time and good planning.

Community groups that have been working to achieve an effective bypass for Coffs Harbour have put their heads together and come up with a plan which they think will help us achieve the best possible solution.

They are keen to have the opportunity to present this plan to you in person as soon as possible and it contains two features we are sure will prove attractive to you.

Firstly, it shows that the RTA's preferred route, announced late last year to little local support, will cause an economic loss to the Coffs Harbour local government area of about $2.4 billion.

As your Government seems to have saving money and reducing waste among its highest priorities, we are sure you will appreciate the magnitude of this cost to the community.

The figure is based on a formula written by accountancy firm Ernst and Young and includes the cost of lost employment opportunities, lost turnover and lost wages and salaries.

It also takes into account the footprint of the RTA's plan, which will reduce the amount of potential residential land available in Coffs Harbour by a total of 1870 dwellings.

The loss of this land for residential expansion comes at a cost of nearly $1 billion.

These figures have been produced by a local economist and were not included in the RTA's assessment of the cost of their plans.

The other aspect we think you will find attractive is the Woolgoolga Area Residents (WAR) group's suggestion that in the short term the highway between Sapphire and Woolgoolga should be upgraded, although not to the standard suggested by the RTA.

They propose improving the highway in this area so it has two lanes each way and protected intersections into settlements such as Moonee Beach, Emerald Beach and Sandy Beach.

This would not require the expansion to six lanes in some places as proposed by the RTA, and the elevated intersections and off ramps that would create more noise problems for many residents.

This type of improvement would come at a cost of little more than $100 million, much less than the $900 million cost of the RTA's plan.

The savings could then be put into the construction of a better western bypass that could benefit Coffs Harbour and the motorists of NSW for many years to come.

Mr Costa, you will have the final say on the plan for the Pacific Highway through our city.

While it will be just one of many decisions you may make as Roads Minister, it will be a decision we will live with every day.

Please take the time to listen to this plan and to consider every alternative.

Yours sincerely,

The Coffs Coast Advocate (on behalf of the people of Coffs Harbour).

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