Bypass no closer as blame game continues
BILL Shorten's bus may have stopped in Coffs Harbour this week, but the Opposition Leader bypassed our region as the latest section of the Pacific Hwy upgrade opened to traffic.
Monday's launch of the Frederickton to Eungai section sparked fresh debate from Labor and the Nationals on funding arrangements for the Pacific Hwy upgrade.
On board Bill's bus was Labor Senator Jennny McAlister, who accused the Coalition of claiming credit for a project funded under a Labor Government.
Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese weighed in on the debate, accusing the government of slashing $351 million in funding for the Pacific Hwy upgrade in this month's Federal budget
Mr Albanese said the cut - based on the National Partnership Agreement - comes on top of a $130 million cut in 2014.
It's an assessment backed up by Australian Bureau of Statistics figures that show public sector infrastructure investment fell by 20% between the September quarters of 2013 and 2015.
"This cut will mean it will take longer to complete the other sections north of Arrawarra and that will slow down potential work on the Coffs Harbour Bypass," he said.
"There's no funding in the budget for it at all."
Member for Cowper Luke Hartusyker rejected the claims, saying the Federal Government's 80-20 funding arrangement with the State Government meant the upgrade was being delivered faster.
He claimed Labor's 50-50 agreement would have delayed the Pacific Hwy duplication by seven years.
Responding to calls for funding on the Coffs Harbour Bypass, Mr Hartsuyker said upgrading other sections took priority.
"Serious accidents are happening in the 100kmh sections," he said.
"Getting trucks out of the main street is an important priority, but it's a priority that follows saving lives."
But Road Freight NSW general manager Simon O'Hara said action needs to be taken sooner rather than later.
He pointed to Bureau of Infrastructure figures that predict 19,380 vehicles each day will travel on the Pacific Hwy through Coffs Harbour by 2030.
"Going from 110kmh to 60kmh through Coffs would conceivably pose issues," he said.
"Not having (trucks) drive through 12 sets of traffic lights and instead using a bypass would be a win-win both for the community and freight drivers."
Despite no funding for the project in the budget, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester said "the bypass needs to happen."
"We are waiting on a business case from NSW Government ," he said.