F3 Motorway Links
F3 MOTORWAY LINKS
Mr PRICE (Waratah) [5.29]: I wish to inform members of the connectors between the end of the F3 national highway at Minmi and the Pacific Highway and New England Highway. This matter has been raised in the House previously, and I am advised that the Federal Minister for Transport has allocated about $2.7 million to commence stage one of the Lenaghans Drive upgrade, a parallel carriageway to the existing Lenaghans Drive. That allocation will be followed, after the Federal Budget, by substantial funds to accelerate that carriageway construction and provision of a flyover to link John Renshaw Drive at the intersection with the New England Highway heading towards Hexham. Both those improvements are essential for the safety of through traffic and local traffic. At present Lenaghans Drive is connected to the New England Highway via what was formerly a council road called Weakleys Drive. That road has been rapidly upgraded as a result of direct Federal funding, but a number of serious problems have emerged in the construction program. Though this matter has been raised with the Newcastle traffic committee, the problems are still to be resolved.
I appeal to the Minister for Transport to intervene with a view to resolving the matter for the safety of travellers. The problem at the moment appears to be that the Weakleys Drive intersection with the New England Highway is such that semitrailers have to stop at a stop sign on the highway boundary and because of the very tight corner are unable to accelerate into the highway heading north towards Maitland without going right across the first lane to the centre lane of the highway.
A number of accidents have occurred there. Fortunately, so far none of them has been terribly serious. However, we are only a hair's breadth off a major fatality. It is a problem that will not go away until the corner of that intersection is reconstructed such that the heavy vehicles, the articulated vehicles, can turn left toward Maitland without having to stop. It may require replacing the stop sign there with a give way sign and perhaps a stop sign in the middle of the highway, preventing traffic coming from Maitland turning into Weakleys Drive heading towards the F3 Freeway. The issue sounds complicated and it is complicated. One of the complicating factors is high speed.
Weakleys Drive was formerly a 60 kilometres per hour normal residential access road. It is now partly 90 kilometres per hour, partly 60 kilometres per hour with a relatively short deceleration distance prior to the highway. The road has been constructed such that the centre medians have a number of gaps to allow local traffic access to properties. The problem is that the gaps in the median, instead of being safe havens for local traffic, have become passing lanes for the through traffic so it is becoming extremely dangerous for local traffic to get in and out of driveways. It is a major hazard because drivers in the through traffic expect that type of construction to involve a passing lane. I appreciate that the wheels do move slowly. In that area we have lost more than 30 people in the past 30 years to road fatalities. Obviously, no government, no person, no instrumentality wants that record to continue. The Government should give a nudge to the department to resolve the problems, particularly when road funding from another government is involved, as it is in this case.
The modifications could be made with the assistance of Federal funding. I urgently appeal to the Minister to consider what I have said today and take the matter up with his area office in Port Macquarie. He could also deal with the matter through the Newcastle office. It is of great concern to me. The residents of Weakleys Drive are alarmed and people further down in Lenaghans Drive where the highway joins the local road network are worried. I appreciate that in five years' time Federal funding will be available to divert the highway from Medlow to Branxton as was originally intended. [Time expired.]
Mr PHILLIPS (Miranda - Minister for Health) [5.34]: I thank the honourable member for Waratah for bringing this issue to the attention of Parliament. Of course, road safety is at the forefront of issues being confronted by the Government. Road safety obviously can be substantially improved with a much upgraded highway system. As a member of the Government since 1988 I am very proud of our record in that area. I understand the issues raised by the honourable member for Waratah concerning road safety in the interim until major works go ahead. I am more than happy to inform the Minister of the concerns of the honourable member for Waratah.