THE Pacific Highway should run as close as possible to Grafton under any proposed upgrade, according to the Grafton City Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

But in lengthy discussions on Monday night, the chamber found it should not necessarily be along the 'Orange' between Four Mile Lane and Ulmarra.

Chamber president, Mark Butler, said a southern interchange also needed to be close to Grafton.

"The chamber is concerned about where, and how many, interchanges there would be to provide access to Grafton and to businesses and services in Grafton," he said. "Should any but the western or Orange option be selected, the existing highway would then become a major link road between the (proposed) new highway, the Gwydir Highway and Summerland Way. If this happens, who is to take responsibility for maintaining the old highway, who is to pay for it?"

Mr Butler said there was concern that an upgraded highway could become a tollway which, in turn, would force traffic onto local roads and increase maintenance costs.

"Any route other than the Option A (Orange) could provide greater opportunities for development along the existing highway particularly residential development," Mr Butler said.

"All these points need to be taken into account when making the final decisions about upgrading the highway through the Clarence Valley."

Mr Butler said the chamber was awaiting the results of a business survey undertaken by consultants SKM to determine the economic effect on Grafton of the four options.

"The chamber executive strongly believes that an extension of time to at least Christmas 2005 is critical to ensure truer public consultation in this matter," he said.

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