RMS Pacific Highway manager Bob Higgins.
RMS Pacific Highway manager Bob Higgins.

Wait will be well worth it

EXTRA time has been added to the drive between Coffs Harbour and Woolgoolga with a reduction in speed limits to 80km/h.

However, motorists can expect the $700 million Sapphire to Woolgoolga upgrade to eventually cut nine minutes off the trip.

As the construction consortium of Leighton Constructions and Fulton Hogan begins major earthworks, the Roads and Traffic Authority will today brief the community on what changes motorists will experience over the next four years.

This week, the 80km/h speed limit was extended from the Sapphire area to north of Emerald Beach.

The RTA's Pacific Highway general manager Bob Higgins said lowering of the speed is an important safety measure to jointly assist motorists and construction workers.

“The public would have noticed a lot of work commencing at the southern end of the 25 kilometre project north of Coffs Harbour, these works will continue moving north with construction gradually moving over most of the site,” Mr Higgins said.

“While the Sapphire end is the starting point, in coming months the 80km/h zone will move north of Emerald Beach to the southern end of Woolgoolga, but right throughout the project we will be keeping two lanes open to traffic.

“The reduction in speed limit is a move to maintain safety and as the contractors move into the construction phase the measure should help to reduce the number of incidents on that section of the Pacific Highway.”

Today the RTA will stage public information sessions on the project at the Woolgoolga Community Hall between 9.30am and 11am and the Moonee Community Hall from 1.30pm to 3pm.

The project, earmarked for completion in 2014, will see five interchanges built at Sapphire, Moonee Beach, Emerald Beach, South Woolgoolga and Arrawarra.

Various sections of the existing highway will be retained as local service roads, while the improved dual carriageway section will feature three metre wide road shoulders to improve safety for cyclists.

The RTA states the completed dual carriageway will significantly reduce highway accidents and cut the 22 minute trip between Coffs Harbour and Woolgoolga to just 13 minutes upon completion.

Mr Higgins said the public will soon see clearing of roadside vegetation and the demolition of buildings within the project corridor.

At this point negotiations are continuing with the last of the 127 property owners whose land will be fully or partially acquired.

The contractors have indicated that weather between now and Christmas is the major factor in their ability to meet project timelines.

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