Funding argument leaves hwy in limbo

AS politicians argue over which government should pay what share of the remaining unfunded sections of the Pacific Hwy upgrade, some 95 kilometres of highway which runs through the Clarence Valley remains in limbo.

An NRMA document showing the progress of the highway upgrade highlighted four sections in the valley (totalling 95km) as "Yet to be committed" with a further 75 kilometres of highway outside the valley in the same category.

Head of the Pacific Highway Taskforce Richie Williamson, who is also Clarence Valley mayor, said he did not know why the valley was last on the list for upgrades.

Mr Williamson said it was clear in the taskforce's charter that committee would not lobby for any particular section of highway.

"But we go into bat for the $9 billion needed for the whole highway," he said.

Asked if he felt the valley had been "punished" for being a National Party stronghold for most of the former NSW Labor Government's 16-year reign, Mr Williamson said he had no proof of that.

"In fairness to the RTA they do what Governments fund them to do, they don't provide the funds."

With 49% of the highway still to be duplicated, a dispute over State:Federal funding models has erupted between the two levels of government who sit on opposite sides of politics.

NSW Deputy Premier (and Nationals leader) Andrew Stoner claims an 80:20 funding model had become the norm for highway funding but Federal Roads Minister Anthony Albanese said it was the former Howard Government who in fact initiated the 50-50 funding model.

Mr Williamson said victims of the highway did not care how the upgrade was funded in as long as it was done as soon as possible.

While welcoming the recent release of a the first six-monthly report card on the highway, Mr Williamson called for a detailed timeline to be released."I'd like to see funding allocated to the timeline and if there are shortfalls, where the fundng is coming from," he said.

He said Infrastructure Australia, a key body in the upgrade, had touted the idea of a toll for interstate traffic to help fund the project.

"The government would borrow the funds and would use the toll funds to repay the money in 20-30 years," he said.

"It's a debate we haven't had yet, but we need to."

Mr Albanese said 1600 workers were currently working on the highway and the upgrade was vital to stem the loss of life numbering 800 in the past 20 years.

Topics:  federal government, funding, pacific highway



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