Stop the carnage, say coast mayors
THE thought that around 200 of their constituents could die in accidents on the Pacific Highway before scheduled upgrades are completed has prompted four North Coast mayors to take action.
In a bid to curtail the carnage on the 212km section of highway between Coffs Harbour and Ballina, that takes an average of 20 lives a year, Clarence Valley Mayor Richie Williamson and his colleagues from Coffs Harbour (Keith Rhoades), Richmond Valley (Col Sullivan) and Ballina (Phil Silver), have invited NSW Premier Kristina Kenneally and the Leader of the NSW Opposition, Barry O’Farrell, to tour the stretch of highway.
Councillor Williamson said the impetus for their action was the news in December that the section of highway that ran through their local government areas (LGA) was placed last on the priority list of upgrades for the highway.
“Everyone wants to be first, but that can’t be the case,” Cr Williamson said. “We certainly think the highway between Coffs Harbour and Ballina is deadly.”
The statistics bear out the mayors’ fears.
Quoting NRMA audit reports from 2003 and 2007, they show that the 212km stretch between Coffs Harbour and Ballina comprises almost a third of the highway distance from Hexham to the Queensland border.
Almost 90 per cent of this distance is two lanes. Despite having the lowest traffic rate of any of the highway, a third of the highway deaths have occurred here.
“This section of the highway is a well-known fatigue zone, being four to six hours from Brisbane and Sydney and at night has terrifying levels of B-double truck use,” the letter said.
“Every year this section of highway is not upgraded, an average of another 20 people will lose their lives – many of them local citizens of our council areas.
“This would mean we would lose another 200 lives and have many hundreds of other lives altered forever by the time we could expect any upgrade of this section of highway to be completed by 2020.”
Cr Williamson said the timing of the invitation, around 12 months out from an election, could well spur the politicians into action.