Highway Taskforce?s plea to Minister: ?show us the money


THE Pacific Highway death toll could be cut with federal funds from the budget surplus, fuel excise or the future sale of Telstra, the Howard Government will be told today.

Pacific Highway Taskforce chair, Councillor Ernie Bennett, and NRMA boss Allan Evans today will meet with Federal Roads Minister Jim Lloyd to urge him to increase funding for the highway upgrade, so that it can be completed within 10 years.

The meeting comes as police continue their investigations into three fatal accidents at Ballina and Tabbimoble last week.

Cr Bennett's meeting with Mr Lloyd comes ahead of a meeting between Lismore MP Thomas George and NSW Roads Minister Eric Roozendaal, at which the Pacific Highway is expected to be discussed, and a meeting on April 20 between local State and Federal MPs and Federal Transport Minister Warren Truss to discuss a proposal to move the highway onto the Summerland Way between Grafton and Tyagerah.

A spokesman for Mr Lloyd said the idea of using tolls to boost funding for the Pacific Highway and the Summerland Way proposal would top the agenda for today's meeting.

However, Cr Bennett said the Pacific Highway Taskforce, a coalition of the NRMA and all the councils on the highway between Newcastle and the Queensland border, would prefer to see the road upgraded without tolls.

"At the end of the day, our preferred option would be to see the State and Federal governments fund it to the tune of whatever is required," Cr Bennett said.

If there was no other way of fast-tracking the upgrade, the councils might wear a tollway, provided the toll did not extend to locals. Cr Bennett also was cautious about the Summerland Way proposal, saying he agreed the road needed improvement, but feared pushing it onto the Pacific Highway agenda could slow the upgrade and block the Ballina bypass and improvements to the existing highway.

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