Children walk across this bridge with no guard
Children walk across this bridge with no guard

Highway blow out

By DAVID MOASE

What price a child's life?

It would cost the NSW Department of Transport $220 a year to get each of these children safely to school. Instead they have to walk across this 30m bridge, with not even a guard rail between them and the B-doubles rushing past.

Highway blow out

THE COST of improvements to the Pacific Highway has blown out by $467 million while traffic levels on the highway in Coffs Harbour have grown by 14 per cent in the past four years, an NRMA Motoring and Services report has revealed.

The independent analysis of State budget papers was released yesterday and show spending beyond the original budgets for 28 projects totals $466.9 million.

Delays on projects between Karuah and Corindi add up to 27 years.

NRMA Motoring and Services director Wendy Machin said the snapshot of progress of upgrades on the highway over the past 10 years showed 'a very poor record'.

"Nearly a third of the projects which were originally scheduled to be finished by now are still not completed," Ms Machin said.

"Eight out of the 12 finished projects were late ? only one project has actually been completed both on time and on budget.

"Five projects are now overdue.

"If you add up all the delays to projects, as of today it adds up to a cumulative delay of 27 years but a number of projects are overdue or do not have a completion date anymore, so the final figure will be well in excess of 30 years.

"These delays come at a huge cost to the community.

"Looking at these statistics, people have every reason to be cynical about promises to fix this deadly highway."

The study by Parsons Brinckerhoff tracked budget papers and compared original cost estimates and completion dates with final costs and completion dates.

The figures showed the Bonville Bypass is one of the longest delayed projects, with its possible completion in 2008 five years after the original 2003 date.

Two-thirds of outstanding projects do not have completion dates or total costings.

While the delays continue, traffic levels on the Pacific Highway are increasing faster than anywhere else in the State.

Between 2001 and 2004 traffic levels on the Mid North Coast were up 6.5 per cent, compared with the state average of between 1 and 2 per cent.

At the junction of the highway and Harbour Drive/High Street in the heart of Coffs Harbour, the number of vehicles grew by a huge 14 per cent in that period.

Ms Machin said the report showed the Federal Government also bore responsibility, having underspent on the National Highway system by an estimated $358 million since 1998.

"The community expects its tax dollars to be used fairly and effectively, yet only $2 billion of the $14- billion the Federal Government collects each year in fuel taxes goes into road funding," she said.



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