With the NSW state election looming once again, Bob Wilson from the Alstonville Bypass Action Group is feeling understandably cynical.
After more than 40 years and countless broken election promises, the community of Alstonville is still clogged with traffic and desperately awaiting its bypass. But Bob and his fellow members refuse to give up, and with the state election just 10 weeks away, they are ready to make some noise and put the issue squarely back on the political agenda.
To kick off the campaign, members of the Alstonville Bypass Action Group are holding a count of traffic movements in the village on February 15, and are calling for local volunteers to help out.
They hope to refute figures presented to parliament last year by the NSW Roads Minister, who claimed 14,000 vehicles travelled through Alstonville daily.
There seems to be total confusion about how many vehicle movements there are the Minister is quoting figures from 2002 and misleading parliament. Ballina Shire Councils own figures are telling us there are approximately 22,000 vehicles each day and we think its even higher now, said Bob. Having accurate figures gives us more fuel to fire at the Minister. We hope if parliament knows the reality that were inundated with vehicles and are in dire straits it will get the bypass moving. But at the same time were not going to hold our breath we know from experience these politicians could lie their way out of jail.
The saga of the Alstonville bypass has been a frustrating roller-coaster ride for members of the action group, as a string of politicians raise residents hopes at election time, only to dash them down the track once votes are in.
The last blow came in 2003 when the then NSW premier, Bob Carr, visited Alstonville four days before the election and publicly declared the bypass would be built by 2006. He later reneged, citing budget difficulties and setting a new completion date of 2010, leaving many locals feeling angry and betrayed.
During the visit, Mr Carr pledged $24 million for the $36 million project, while the remaining $12 million was pledged by the federal government at the 2001 federal election.
Later pressed on where the money was and why the promise was not met, the then NSW Roads Minister Michael Costa blamed the federal government, saying it had short-changed the NSW Government to the tune of $1.5 billion in Commonwealth funding.
Bob says the sad reality is that while the two tiers of government squabble and delays continue, the price tag on the project keeps rising, and its now estimated at more than $60 million.
Were fearful that it will take a bad injury or a death for the NSW Government to do what they should have done almost four decades ago. In the last 12 months six people have been hit by cars in the main street, and were just lucky none of them were serious, said Bob. Its criminal that they can be so negligent, and we have to keep reminding these politicians of their duty of care to the residents of Alstonville and the 2000 school children who have to cross that road twice a day. Perhaps they think well eventually give up, but were never ever going to go away.
Bob says around two years ago, the Bruxner Highway was gazetted as a B-double road, exacerbating congestion in the village. He says its now becoming a health problem as well as a safety issue, as cattle trucks coming through town often spill raw sewage in the towns main street.
If the butcher went out and tipped up a garbage bin with raw meat in the middle of the road, health inspectors would be brought in, Bob said. Its absolutely putrid after these trucks go through but where is the Health Minister? Its just a complete debacle, and with the election coming we need to start stirring up trouble again. And we need as much manpower as possible.
The Alstonville Bypass Action Group is now looking for people to register for the public count on February 15. Each volunteer will be counting for around two hours and it will be conducted at various sites to capture as many traffic movements as possible.
For more information or to volunteer phone Bob on 6628 0506 or Marilyn Perkins on 6628 3880.
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