Highway on target for 2014

THE $705 million Sapphire to Woolgoolga highway upgrade is on track for completion by 2014.

That was the message from the RTA at yesterday’s Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting, where business and community leaders were given a progress report on the overall project to deliver dual carriageway from Hexham to the Queensland border.

The RTA’s acting general manager of the Pacific Highway, Shane Higgins, confirmed there was no funding for the hazardous stretch between Woolgoolga and Ballina but the RTA had $10 million to continue the planning.

“We’re hoping to get the concept plan approved by the middle of next year,” Mr Higgins said.

Once Sapphire to Woolgoolga is completed, it will provide 25km of four-lane divided carriageway between Sapphire and Arrawarra Beach Road. The project includes a 15km upgrade of existing highway and a 10km bypass of Woolgoolga with five interchanges.

With as many as 21 deaths on the highway between Hexham and the Queensland border so far this year, the race is on to complete the upgrades. Four of those fatalities were on upgraded sections, 12 were on sections to be upgraded by 2014 and four were on stretches earmarked for work beyond that.

Mr Higgins said by 2014 it was hoped the highway upgrade would significantly reduce fatalities from the high 40s per year.

Since 1996, about $3.9 billion has been spent on the highway and $3.6 billion has been allocated to 2014.

“Our aim is to improve traffic safety and to reduce travel times,” Mr Higgins said.

He said 330km (50 per cent) of the highway was now open to dual carriageway with another 69km under construction and 113km being prepared.

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