$3bn to build 2000km carriageway
By Luke McIlveen
April 28, 2004
THE Pacific and Hume highways linking Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane will be widened in a Federal Government $3 billion roads funding bonanza.
| Stretches of road in New South Wales, such as this one in the Blue Mountains, are far too narrow to deal with their traffic load / Matthew Vasilescu |
Under the plan, to be unveiled in the May 11 Budget, the deadliest and most congested stretch of road in the country will be transformed into a dual carriageway by 2010.
It's expected a roads "super fund" will be established to replace the Roads Of National Importance scheme, which will be scrapped.
The new National Land Transport Network will focus on big-ticket projects, including widening the Hume and Pacific highways between Melbourne and Brisbane.
Victoria's Roads Minister Ian Campbell received the green light for an initial $600 million to begin work on the upgrades at a special Budget Cabinet meeting last Thursday. A close ally of Treasurer Peter Costello, Senator Campbell has fought for more funding for road black spots since last September, when he took over the portfolio from the disgraced Wilson Tuckey.
The funding boost will not be enough to expand all of the narrow stretches of road along the heavily populated east coast, but the plan is to pour about $3 billion into the works over the next five years.
The states will still be expected to share the costs with the Government under the new road funding arrangements.
Negotiations with the state Labor premiers are expected to be strained, given the constant tensions over funding for the Roads Of National Importance scheme.
A Government source said the RONI scheme had descended into a "finger pointing" exercise to the detriment of drivers. "The Feds are going to put in more and negotiating with the states to put in more," the source said.
But the Government will also need to convince voters the new focus on major highways does not come at the expense of country roads.
Holidaymakers who took to the coastal roads over the Easter and Anzac Day long weekends will know large sections of the stretch linking Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne is in poor condition.
About 500km of the 2000km between Brisbane and Melbourne remains a single carriageway.
Nowhere is the problem worse than on the NSW north coast, where drivers jostle for the winding road with semi-trailers and delivery trucks.
In the three years to 2002, the perilous stretch between Grafton and Ballina claimed 19 lives, and 310 serious injuries, from 435 crashes.