Toll proposal for Hogbin Drive link

By DAVID MOASE

MOTORISTS will pay for the multimillion dollar link to complete Hogbin Drive, if Coffs Harbour deputy mayor Cr Ian Hogbin gets his way. It is widely accepted that the completion of Hogbin Drive is vital to the city's future and, once finished, it will ease congestion on the Pacific Highway. Agreement ends, however, when discussion turns to the best way of paying for the roadwork, estimated to cost $13 million. While Coffs Harbour City Council wants the State Government to pay the bill, Cr Hogbin says drivers using the road should make a contribution as well. "It's one thing to say we need it, it's one thing the say the State Government should pay for it, but that's not getting it any closer," he said. "We will never get the money from the RTA while we're asking for 100 per cent. "What I think we've got to demonstrate is that we're going to take X amount of traffic off the (Pacific Highway) ? that helps the RTA's traffic flow. "If that amount is 50 per cent, we say 'Okay, RTA, we want you to pay 50 per cent'. I know the bureaucrats want them to pay the lot but that's where it falls over. "If it's 50 per cent, then we have to find 50 per cent, that's $6.5 million. "What we do is we put a toll over the bridge. "Tolls happen everywhere else. If we charge $1 a car, the bridge will pay for itself." "If people say 'I don't like the idea', I say, excuse me, user has to pay." Director of city services Steve Sawtell said the council was continuing to lobby the RTA, State Government and Federal Government to fund the Hogbin Drive link. By 2011, the road would take about 14,000 cars per day off the Pacific Highway. "It is imperative Hogbin Drive is completed to improve transport in Coffs Harbour," Mr Sawtell said. Cr Hogbin recognises that many people may baulk at paying a toll to travel on Hogbin Drive ? named in honour of his grandfather, Eric ? but points out that it will be far from compulsory. "People will still have the option to go via the harbour or go via the highway or they can go over the bridge and pay a dollar," he said. "I think a toll would actually control the congestion on that road because otherwise you would have everybody using it. "The toll will steer some back (to the Pacific Highway) ? you've still got your freedom ? but if you want to take the short cut you pay a dollar, or whatever it is. "Sydney, all the other cities, have tolls. Nobody's going to give us the money for the road, we haven't got it in the budget so we've got to find it. "I want to find more money in that budget, but that's so we can provide the services that are getting squeezed." While he is yet to raise the subject in council, Cr Hogbin has a well-formulated plan of attack. "I want this (Bray Street) finished so I can cross it off. If we focus on too many things then nothing gets done," he said. "We can then say, for traffic, it's now Hogbin Drive, that's our next priority. Let's do the number-crunching, let's discuss with people about the toll. "You'll get half a dozen letters into your paper having a whinge, and I've got no problem with that, so long as the debate is fair.



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