Highway bill rises

THE Pacific Hwy task force is concerned the latest rise in the estimated price of completing upgrades to the highway is putting the project's original estimate completion date of 2016 in jeopardy.

The upgrade will see dual-carriageway along much of the highway's length in a bid to increase safety and also cater for the projected future increase in road-based freight.

Clarence Valley Council Mayor and task force chairman Richie Williamson said concerns were beginning to arise about when it would be completed with its budget being revised regularly.

“On Thursday, the Pacific Hwy taskforce met in Port Macquarie and we invited Infrastructure Australia to talk to the task force about the highway project.

"We were told at the meeting that $8.6 billion is now needed to complete the work and that figure increases at a minimum 4% every year the work isn't complete. When you talk about 4% of $8.6 billion it's a hell of a lot of money,” he said.

“Obviously it was pretty sobering news. Just a short time ago the Federal Estimates Committee had an estimate of around $7 billion, so it is concerning.”

Cr Williamson said it was important the highway upgrade was completed as soon as possible and said in light of the latest hike, the task force would be doing everything it could to keep the process chugging along to meet its 2016 completion date.

He said it was vital the State Government allocated adequate funding for the upgrade in its budget in early September.

“What we will be advocating for is also a deal, a memorandum of understanding between the two governments that is signed for future funding so we have some surety as to when the highway will be completed,” Cr Williamson said.

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