An inland route via the Summerland Way to ease pressure on the Pacific Highway has been ruled out by the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA), which claims its too expensive and would not divert enough traffic away from the coast.
An RTA review of the proposed route found the majority of traffic was generated on the coast and would stay on the coast, with only 1900 of an estimated 9700 vehicles diverted inland each day.
The report claimed the Summerland Way inland route would cost $3.2 billion, and the RTA would still be forced to fund essential Pacific Highway upgrades to the tune of $1 billion. The RTA says its more cost effective to simply upgrade the Pacific Highway at a cost of $3 billion.A
n RTA spokesperson has commented that building two highways is not an option.
The inland route was proposed by three local National MPs. Speaking to The Echo following Tuesdays announcement, Ballina MP Don Page said he was disappointed but not surprised as the RTA had never favoured the plan.
Mr Page was sceptical about the RTAs projected costings and said the traffic movement analysis had been based on 2004 figures. He also argued against the RTAs claim that the inland route could not be built in stages.
That doesnt strike me as accurate because the Grafton to Casino section of the Summerland Way is in pretty good condition. Theres no reason why that section couldnt take trucks, said Mr Page. The section youd need to do first would be Tyagarah to Casino, enabling heavy vehicles to use the route, and then you could gradually upgrade the Summerland Way in sections.
Mr Page said the RTAs assessment that two highways was not possible was short-sighted and ignored the fact that by 2020 interstate freight would have doubled and coastal traffic would also have increased significantly.
What they are saying its an either or situation but we need to look at both, Mr Page said. Thats where the lack of vision is. You talk to most people and they agree you have to have an interstate freight route as well as a decent Pacific Highway.
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