A NEW State Government report has questioned the merit of upgrading the Pacific Highway between Ballina and Woolgoolga and between Port Macquarie and Urunga, saying money would be better spent closer to Sydney.
Infrastructure NSW's State Infratstructure Strategy for 2012 to 2032, entitled 'First Things First', says the Ballina to Woolgoolga and Port Macquarie to Urunga upgrades involved "high costs and relatively limited benefits" and suggests money should first be spent on the busier F3 to Raymond Terrace section heading out of Sydney.
"The economic merit of the remaining sections is much lower … than that of the Highway as a whole," the report says.
"This reflects the relatively low traffic volumes on the remaining sections - for example the traffic between Woolgoolga and Ballina is generally below 10,000 vehicles per day.
"Given competing priorities for NSW and Commonwealth Government funds, the high cost and relatively limited benefits of these remaining sections raises questions about the:
- "relative merit of prioritising busier sections of the Pacific Highway corridor for upgrade sooner, (in particular from the F3 to Raymond Terrace 40,000 vehicles per day)
- "appropriate scope of works and priority for those sections with relatively light traffic."
The report recommends a review "of the scope and costs of the Pacific Highway", including looking at other ways of funding work on the road.
"Current highway planning seems more focussed on delivering an outstanding engineering outcome than on controlling costs," the report says.
"The Ballina Bypass provides a recent illustration of the consequences of having high performance standards. For 12 kilometres of new road, the cost was $640 million - more than twice the cost per kilometre of previous sections."
The Ballina Bypass, which was largely paid for by the Federal Government, became well known in engineering circles around Australia because of the need to deal with the nation's deepest alluvial soils across the flats west and south of the town.
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