Highway options out

By TOBY WALKER

CLARENCE VALLEY residents have until November 18 to comment on the four proposed Pacific Highway routes that will dramatically change traffic conditions between Wells Crossing and Iluka Road.

Townships, homes, businesses, farms, Aboriginal places of significance, state forests and wetlands all stand to be affected by the eventual route chosen as the preferred option by the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA).

The four colour-coded options issued by the RTA range from a new dual lane highway that closely follows the existing road, except for bypasses at Grafton and Ulmarra, through to a brand new road close to the Pillar Valley and Gulmarrad communities.

All routes include plans for a new bridge across the Clarence River at Harwood. The financial, environmental and social costs vary with each route.

The Orange/A option would follow much the same path as the current highway, but with the RTA estimating it could cost as much as $1.4 billion to build, it is easily the most expensive.

The RTA estimates 175 houses and 465 hectares of farm land could be directly affected by this option.

The Purple/B option duplicates 19km of the existing highway, deviating east to the north of Pillar Valley and the west of the Pine Brush State Forest before rejoining the highway south of Maclean. This $1.05 billion Purple option could potentially affect 35 homes and 265 hectares of agricultural land.

The Green/C and Red/D options ? estimated to cost $800k each ? both take similar paths, cutting north-east through part of Glenugie State Forest and passing east of Pillar Valley.

From there the Green option heads through the centre of the Pine Brush State Forest, parts of ecologically significant wetlands and the eastern side of Gulmarrad before running through the James Creek area to join up at Harwood. The Red option only touches on the eastern fringes of the Pine Brush State Forest and avoids the wetlands, but its effects on farming properties south east of Gulmarrad and the James Creek community are the same as its Green counterpart.

Maps of the route options will be at the following locations; Grafton RTA Pacific Highway office, Grafton Motor Registry, Clarence Valley Council's Maclean office, Coldstream Gallery, Ulmarra, Tucabia Village store, Wooli Post Office and the Yamba Chamber of Commerce notice board. To view a comprehensive copy of the plans online visit www.rta.nsw.gov.au



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