Highway date 'essential'
RICHIE Williamson is asking the big question: when will the Pacific Highway be finished?
"Let's be fair dinkum about this, we're approaching the end of 2012 and we still have hundreds of kilometres of highway that remain single carriageway," he said yesterday.
Cr Williamson said there was not only an ongoing feud about how the project would be funded but sections of the Pacific Hwy were still to get planning approval.
"Many kilometres of the area that is still single carriageway, especially in the Clarence Valley planning area, have not been given government approval for the upgrade," he said.
He called for the Government to set a realistic and achievable date for completion.
"If 2016 is not achievable, and clearly to me and the person on the street it is not, then we want to know what the new date for completion is."
Cr Williamson heads a joint committee of councils that have the highway running through their electorates and are lobbying for its completion as soon as possible.
"Myself and the members of the committee want a timeline of the construction and the funding attached to it so we have a clear understanding of how and when this will be delivered," he said.
Cr Williamson said the economic benefit to the Valley would be huge and he would like to see the project completed as soon as possible.
He also said the community had been lobbying for the highway upgrade for almost 23 years.
"The community has been hearing about this project since the Cowper bus crash in 1989," he said. "Not having the timeline creates both community uncertainty and business uncertainty. Having the timeline there with the funding attached will deliver certainty to the community and allow business to gear up for what I expect could be as much as $2-3 billion worth of investment."
Federal Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Anthony Albanese criticised Cr Williamson's position. He said it was disappointing that Cr Williamson was advocating a position where the highway project had no target at all.
"Since 2007, we've invested $4.1 billion to duplicate the Pacific Hwy and in this year's Federal Budget we've made available a further $3.56 billion," said Mr Albanese via a press release.
"All we've ever asked of the NSW Coalition Government is they honour their promises."