Highway tolls decision due soon

By ALEX EASTON, The Northern Star

A DECISION on whether to use tolls to fund the Pacific Highway upgrade is likely in October, when a working group is expected to report on the issue, Federal Roads Minister Jim Lloyd has said.

Mr Lloyd said the Federal Government was prepared to put more money into the highway, but remained open to the idea of using tolls to fund it.

He said he was waiting on a report, due around October, on ways to pay for the upgrade.

Mr Lloyd appeared to back further away from last year's suggestions that tolls would not apply to locals, saying only that there would be 'no road closures' and existing local roads ? such as redundant sections of the existing highway ? would remain open for locals to use for free.

Ballina State MP Don Page said he and other NSW Nationals remained opposed to tolls, saying the highway 'could and should' be funded entirely by government.

Mr Page said the highway was being taken seriously by the State and Federal governments; pointing to funding for the Ballina bypass, which was announced before Christmas, and RTA plans to call for pre-construction tenders for the bypass this month.

An RTA spokesman said the call for tenders was 'close'.

Pre-construction work would focus largely on preparing the deep alluvial soils, which have been one of the biggest stumbling blocks for the bypass, for road construction.

It remained unknown how long pre-construction work would take or when tenders for the main part of the bypass construction would be called.



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