Impasse in the Coffs Harbour bypass

COFFS Harbour stands alone these Christmas holidays as the last of the east coast's great Pacific Highway bottlenecks.

Up to 100,000 vehicles will pass through the 12 sets of traffic lights on the city's 8.5km stretch every day during a week of heavy holiday traffic, ramping up from Wednesday.

With the Macksville Bypass now open, there are concerns Coffs Harbour may experience gridlock as the 110km/h fast lanes hit a logjam in the city centre.

But what's worse is the Coffs Harbour bypass sits at the bottom of a list of some 45 Pacific Highway projects - started or finished - over the past three decades.

The 14km upgrade spanning from Englands Rd to Korora is still undated for a start, unfunded for completion and long overdue, according to the Coffs Harbour community.

A decade has now passed since a preferred bypass route was released and the project's price tag has reportedly climbed past the $1-billion mark.

So is the bypass now too costly to commit to, too massive an undertaking to start, and sitting idle in a too-hard basket?

Coffs Harbour Mayor Denise Knight says she is starting to think so.

At the recent Local Government NSW conference, Cr Knight asked Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Melinda Pavey what the local council could do to help the Berejiklian Government steer the Turnbull Cabinet towards funding consideration.

"I think (the Coalition) is floundering, they've either run out of money, lost interest or lost direction," Cr Knight said.

"It should have been done 10 to 15 years ago. What do we need to do as a local community to help them get this done?

 

 

"The machinery and the road crews are finishing at Macksville, why not just move them north after Warrell Creek?

"Don't give us a figurative start date of 2020 or 2021 - Coffs Harbour needs a proper time frame."

Ms Pavey's office indicated the State Government had received a business plan prepared by Roads and Maritime Services.

Twice this year in Senate Estimates, the bypass - deemed by Infrastructure Australia as a 'national priority' for freight and transport - has been raised.

Alarmingly, as Coffs Harbour residents navigated trucks and interstate traffic in the city centre, the question was twice met with paper shuffling, silence and admission there was no business plan received.

With a Federal election due by November 2019, the city can only hope the Turnbull Government is sitting on its commitment for political gain.

A decade ago, the north coast rallied for upgrades to save lives on single-lane sections - upgrades that should have happened in the 20th century - but in 2018-19, Coffs Harbour deserves a funding time frame.

 

#BeepforaBypass   Today we launch the #BeepforaBypass campaign and call for the support of Advocate readers.    We aim to send Canberra a reminder of the growing traffic gridlock in Coffs in 2018.