Dual lanes the answer
By BELINDA SCOTT
PACIFIC Highway problems dominated yesterday's community forum discussions in Coffs Harbour between Mark Vaile and invited local government and business representatives.
Like his predecessor in the Federal transport portfolio, Mr Vaile said the message he had received was for the highway upgrade work under way to proceed as quickly as possible, with two fatal accidents on the highway over the weekend lending urgency to the pleas from community representatives.
Friday night's accident at Kew saw 19-year-old Coffs Harbour resident Dixie Gibson killed when her car collided with a B-double. Sunday's Knockrow accident was a single-car accident where a 27-year-old driver crashed his car into an embankment.
The fatality is the third in two weeks and brings the death toll on the Highway to 26 for the year. In spite of pleas to move B-doubles off the Pacific Highway, the acting Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services said he did not see realistically how this could be done.
"You can send financial signals to road transport, with a tax or toll, but I think they are saving $300 to $400 on a Sydney to Brisbane trip, so you would have to have a toll above that," Mr Vaile said.
He said it was important to remain focused on building a divided, dual-lane Pacific Highway, because statistics showed this reduced fatal accidents by 80 per cent.
The Pacific Highway Taskforce yesterday welcomed Friday's announcement by NSW Roads Minister Eric Roozendaal that he intended to seek planning approval to fast-track the Pacific Highway upgrade as an issue of State Significance.
Pacific Highway Taskforce chairman Cr Ernie Bennett said the decision to streamline the planning process would take years off the construction timetable, save millions in costs and save lives.
But he said it was beyond the State Government to finish it on its own and the Federal Government needed to take over a substantial amount of the funding, using proceeds from the Federal Budget surplus and the sale of shares in Telstra 3.