IT is the deadliest stretch of road in NSW.
The Pacific Highway between Coffs Harbour and Ballina claims, on average, 10 lives a year.
The road toll on the highway section, stands at 46 people in the four years between 2005 and 2009 – the most recent fatality occurring just last Thursday.
Given the carnage is seen all to regularly, we ask the question: is the state of the highway, north of Coffs, the most pressing issue on the Mid North Coast heading into next year’s State Government election?
The mayors of Coffs Harbour, Ballina and the Clarence and Richmond Valleys, certainly think so.
Their recent invite to State politicians to tour the road came with calls for the upgrade to be fast-tracked, making the issue one neither side of politics can ignore.
Opposition leader Barry O’Farrell last week saw the dangers of the northern section for himself.
The State Government responded mapping out what it has planned to overcome the death trap.
Premier Kristina Keneally stands by the joint Federal and State Labor commitment of an entire Pacific Highway duplication by 2016.
“In a little over two years we have moved quickly to significantly boost Federal investment in this vital part of the national road network,” Premier Keneally said.
“In fact, compared to our predecessors, we’re investing more than twice as much in half the time,” she said.
Mr O’Farrell said the Government’s outlay of $10 million for a future upgrade was a start, but did not go far enough, vowing he would sit down and assess the costings for the entire project.
The Roads and Traffic Authority responded saying $1 billion would be invested in the Pacific Highway between the cities over the next five years to 2014.
This includes works on the 25km section between Sapphire and Woolgoolga, the 7km stretch south of Grafton at Glenugie, a 5km section at Devil’s Pulpit near Tabbimobile, plus the completion of the Ballina bypass.
An RTA spokesperson said 46 people have died in a total of 43 accidents over the past four years.
Thirteen of those deaths happened on the soon to be upgraded roadway north of Coffs and south of Ballina.