Highway protests set to continue

OPPONENTS of the current Pacific Highway upgrade plans will protest on the Pacific Highway at Smiths Road at 10am tomorrow in what they say will be the first of a series of rolling protests focused on highway black spots.

The Bypass Action Network, the Angry Grannies and Woolgoolga Area Residents Group have committed themselves to a series of Highway protests to raise community awareness about unsafe road conditions on the Northern Beaches of Coffs Harbour.

They say the protests will highlight each 'black spot' between Sapphire and Arrawarra until action is taken by the NSW Roads Minister, Eric Roozendaal to improve traffic conditions in those areas.

Angry Grannies spokeswoman Margaret Murphy said the Smiths Road intersection was a death trap.

She said Roads Minister Eric Roozendaal and the RTA were using safety as leverage to get their motorway plans accepted.

"In the meantime they will not spend money on urgent safety measures, despite representations to get these relatively inexpensive measures in place," she said.

Ms Murphy said the Coffs Harbour community was being being blackmailed into accepting a motorway for heavy vehicle freight, because every accident and every fatality was one more reason to push through the motorway.

But the federal member for Cowper, Luke Hartsuyker, who wrote a detaqiled letter to the editor on the highway this week, said yesterday that the 'the overwhelming sentiment' of constituents contacting his office was: "There's been enough talk, now let's get on with the job."

He said there was an existing black spot program but the proposed Pacific Highway upgrade and overpasses offered maximum safety for motorists.

He said it was ironic that residents near the highway further south were fighting to get such upgrades.

Mr Hartsuyker said the upgrade was a joint State-Federal project and the Federal Government's only leverage was to withdraw funding, which would create a standoff and halt work.

There have been calls for Mr Hartsuyker to intervene in the Pacific Highway planning as a Federal colleague did with the Bells Line of Road, but Mr Hartsuyker said there were big differences between the two cases ? The Bells Line was for $10 million towards a study to look at a co-contribution by the state, which had immediately said it was not having a bar of any proposal for a motorway solution, whereas on the Pacific Highway, the options had been exhaustively canvassed and there were no detailed and feasible alternatives to the current plan.

While the extra land required for a Sapphire to Woolgoolga local road are seen by opponents as creating a motorway by default, Mr Hartsuyker said it was also a safety measure.

"You can take a positive view and say it provides safety for motorists away from the faster-moving through traffic or you can take a negative view," he said.

BAN spokesman Wayne Evans said initially the highway demonstrations would be outside peak travelling times so as not to inconvenience commuters.

"We would ask the public to be aware of the need for these actions," said Mr Evans. "Minister Roozendaal will be notified of each black spot."

On May 17, Coffs Harbour City Council voted to support the Sapphire to Woolgoolga highway upgrade to four lanes.

The RTA plans include an adjoining two-lane local road.

The motion included asking local state and federal MPs to support lobbying the RTA for a long-term Pacific Highway bypass strategy and make submissions to the Minister for Transport to establish a working party for a regional freight strategy.



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