Upgrade ?a scar
By DAVID MOASE
COMBINED Lobby Group spokesman Gary Davey has called on the Roads and Traffic Authority to scale back its plans for the Pacific Highway, describing the draft concept plan being circulated as a 'nightmare'.
Mr Davey said the RTA's plan was not an upgrade of the present highway but an eight-lane monstrosity that would leave a scar along the Coffs Coast that would never heal.
A concept plan for the highway between Sapphire and Woolgoolga has been circulated for comment and has met with outrage from community groups along the route.
Among the points causing major concern are elevated on and off ramps either side of the dual carriageway roadway.
Going by the plans, the intersections appear as if they will be more than 200 metres wide.
With surveyors working daily along the highway to gather more information for the road builders, Mr Davey has called on the RTA to redraw its plans.
"We recognise that the road as it is is unsafe," he said.
"It must be four lanes, we must bring down the speed limit, we've got to have safer intersections but at the same time we've got to make sure that in the long term the trucks and the through traffic are not forced through the middle of the community.
"That divides the community, it makes it unsafe and it imposes on us a concrete construction nightmare from which we'll never recover.
"We want the RTA to stop this eight-lane nightmare that they're currently proposing."
Mr Davey said time for the RTA to change its mind was running out.
"Their proposal is based on the assumption that the route becomes the permanent transport route for the east coast of Australia," he said.
"We don't want it to be the permanent transport route for the east coast of Australia. It doesn't make sense.
"If the RTA builds what they are planning, they'll never be back because they'll say to their political masters, 'look, we've spent a billion dollars on Coffs Harbour already. We've got the transport route down the east coast, forget it, move on'."
"But if we insist on a modest upgrade of the highway just to make it safe, then the pressure for a long-term solution becomes irresistible.
"Even with (the planned) construction, you've got seven intersections that will continue to be unsafe and you are still going to have traffic battling their way through seven sets of traffic lights through Coffs Harbour.
"So it's not a solution other than to waste $900 million, continue to expose this community to an unsafe environment and leave it with a massive concrete scar that will be there forever."
The recent meeting between Coffs Harbour business people and Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson was a cause for optimism, Mr Davey said.
Mr Anderson told the meeting of his enthusiasm for a northern motorway linking existing sections of dual carriageway to take trucks and through traffic away from residential areas.
"It appears that the State and Federal governments are both supportive of the idea. John Anderson and Michael Costa say they have done serious preliminary work on it already," Mr Davey said.
"If that's true, then that may well save this community from the destruction that the RTA currently has in mind."
An RTA spokesperson said the draft plans were working documents only.
"When completed, the refined concept plan will be displayed by the RTA for community information and comment," the spokesperson said.
"This is expected to take place later this year.
"The estimated cost of the upgrade will be subject to the final design of the project."