Pacific Highway Upgrade
Mr JOHN TURNER: My question is directed to the Minister for Roads. Given that the section of the Pacific Highway in my electorate that claimed four lives yesterday and three lives five years ago has not been upgraded, and given that the Federal Government has increased its funding to the highway by a further $100 million a year, why has the Minister not ensured that this stretch of road is made a high priority for reconstruction?
Mr JOSEPH TRIPODI: I am sure that the Opposition would join me in extending deepest sympathies to the families of the victims in yesterday's accident. It was a shocking tragedy and devastating not only for the families but for their communities as well. I will not speculate on the cause of the accident, which is the subject of a police investigation. The crash site is four kilometres north of the work now under way as section one of the Karuah to Bulahdelah upgrade. Construction of this 12-kilometre stretch of road is well advanced, transforming a two-lane highway into a four-lane divided highway. The work is costing $114 million and is jointly funded by the State and Federal governments. Work is due to be completed in the second half of next year.
The crash occurred in what will be section two of this major upgrade. This work will also be jointly funded by the New South Wales and Federal governments through Auslink. The Roads and Traffic Authority has called tenders for the 23-kilometre stretch of road comprising sections two and three. The contract will be to design, construct and maintain the road for 10 years. I am advised that tenders close in March, contracts will be awarded in July and construction will commence shortly thereafter. The work is expected to cost in excess of $200 million. As with section one, the work will turn the current two-lane road into a four-lane divided road. The safety benefit of a divided road is that it virtually eliminates the possibility of head-on crashes. That is why it is essential for the State and Federal governments to upgrade all of the Pacific Highway from Hexham to the Queensland border as a dual carriageway. This must happen as quickly as possible.
Since 1996 a total of 44 projects have opened to traffic, with motorists now benefiting from 229 kilometres of four-lane dual carriageway. A further eight projects are under construction or have been approved awaiting start of construction. A further 17 upgrading projects are in the planning phase. By the end of this financial year approximately 44 per cent of the highway from Hexham to the Queensland border—a distance of 677 kilometres—will be dual carriageway either completed or under construction. Every road death is a terrible loss. Once again I express my sympathy to those affected yesterday.