MP's highway tour today

DOUBT has been cast over the chances of meeting the state and federal governments’ self-imposed 2016 deadline to finish the Pacific Highway upgrade.

Speaking on the eve of NSW Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell’s tour of the highway, Ballina MP Don Page, Clarence MP Steve Cansdell and Coffs Harbour Mayor Keith Rhoades yesterday all questioned the governments’ ability to convert all of Australia’s most dangerous road to dual carriageway within six years.

“Currently the project’s funding runs out in 2014 and there’s no financial plan between the State and Federal governments for funding for the completion of the Pacific Highway to dual carriageway to make the 2016 deadline,” Cr Rhoades said.

That meant the State and Federal governments still had to find $6 billion needed to cover the sections of highway that would need to be done over those two years.

Mr Page and Mr Cansdell both said the highway was a high priority for the NSW Coalition, but neither could guarantee a Coalition government would be able to meet the deadline.

“It’s taken us 14 years to get half of it dual carriageway, it’s hard to believe we’ll actually do the other half in six years,” Mr Page said.

Mr O’Farrell will this afternoon fly into Ballina before being taken on a bus tour of the highway, at the invitation of the mayors on the Pacific Highway taskforce.

The tour, which will include commentary on accident sites from a paramedic, will run from Ballina to Grafton to Coffs Harbour before heading back to Grafton.

It will also include a stop at the site of the October 1989 Cowper bus crash, which killed 21 people and injured another 22.

Mr Page and Mr Cansdell said they did not expect Mr O’Farrell to make any policy or funding announcements.

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