Heat's on to fix hwy 'death zones'
JUST a week into office and the State Government has seen two fatal accidents on the Pacific Highway section south of Coffs Harbour, which Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner refers to as “the death zone”.
The highway's notoriety between Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour again made national news yesterday, following Tuesday's horrific accident at Warrell Creek.
The 29-year-old Alstonville man who was killed became the 28th person to die on that section since 2005.
Yesterday Mr Stoner revealed plans for a solution to fast-track the $48 million Frederickton to Eungai upgrade, well south of this week's accident scene. He did so after a meeting last week with the Roads and Traffic Authority's chief executive Michael Bushby.
Mr Stoner pushed for a start to the construction on the second stage of that particular upgrade, but to achieve this he'll need the support of Federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese to secure the necessary funding.
In October last year Prime Minister Julia Gillard told parliament she was committed to completing dual carriageway on the Pacific Highway by 2016.
“We support that, and we want to work with them towards getting there,” a spokesman for Mr Stoner said.
Mr Albanese's office said a meeting would occur “as soon as was possible” with NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay and State Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian, which Mr Stoner would also be welcome to attend.
“The Federal Government has committed $3.1 billion to complete the highway duplication by 2016, we welcome the new State Government's commitments to also get the job done,” a spokesman for Mr Albanese said.
“In comparison the State Government will contribute just $500 million towards these duplication works over the next six years.”
It was still unknown yesterday whether it's physically possible for the Warrell Creek to Urunga upgrade to be fast-tracked, given the extent of highway upgrades under way at Ballina and north of Coffs.
Under the Federal/State Labor governments' 2009 investment plan, the upgrade to Eungai would be completed in 2014, along with the Kempsey bypass while pre-construction works would have started between Warrell Creek and Macksville.
Preliminary RTA crash figures show there were 54 highway fatalities between Coffs Harbour and Kempsey between 2000 and last year.
A further four people have died already this year.