Tripodi bows to pressure

THE chances of work starting on the Bonville Deviation within the next year have improved substantially.

Bowing to mounting political and community pressure, much of it from the Coffs Coast, the NSW Minister for Roads, Joe Tripodi, finally put pen to paper yesterday signing the Bilateral Federal State roads funding agreement ? AusLink.

But it seems Mr Tripodi's signature came only reluctantly.

The Minister is still maintaining the agreement means NSW has been short-changed on the Pacific Highway and that he only signed because he was backed into a corner.

Mr Tripodi said under AusLink, the Federal Government regarded the Pacific Highway as a part of its new National Network but it was not funding it in the same way as other highways in the same network.

"Under the AusLink deal that's a $480 million deficit every year ? a $480 million black hole for the Pacific Highway courtesy of the Federal Government," Mr Tripodi said.

"The bottom line is that signing this agreement means NSW has to pay an extra $298 million for roadworks ? but not signing would have cost us $940 million. Signing up was the lesser of two evils."

News of the breaking of the political stalemate over AusLink was welcomed by the mayor of Coffs Harbour, Councillor Keith Rhoades.

"I am delighted by this announcement. The agreement releases nearly $1 billion of State and Federal funding for the upgrading of the Pacific Highway over the next four years," Cr Rhoades said.

"In particular, it paves the way for the start of construction on the Bonville Deviation.

"Similarly, I am hopeful that the work on improving safety standards at intersections along the northern beaches should also now be able to start very soon."

Mr Tripodi also said he would soon be able to announce the short-listed tenderers for the Bonville Deviation.

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