Tuesday, 19 February 2019
Macquarie Electorate: Infrastructure
Ten years ago, when I first ran as a candidate, I asked people in the Hawkesbury, 'What's the biggest problem you face?' And what did they say? Traffic congestion. Ten years on, nothing has changed. We have two bridges, single lanes each way. One was built more than 150 years ago and the other was built a much more recent 115 years ago. Yet the population has grown. It now sits at around 70,000, and new developments at Redbank and other subdivisions will continue to see growth on that side of the river. But we have the same four lanes to and from work, to hospital, to school and to our major centres.
In 2010, when the then Minister for Infrastructure and I announced $20 million to do short-term improvements to alleviate some of the congestion at either end of Richmond Bridge, the local Liberals pooh-poohed the idea. The then Liberal Federal member for Macquarie had no view on it and her state counterparts thought it wasn't needed. But Labor did provide that funding to the New South Wales government following the 2010 election. The study, finished in 2012, identified longer term options—a duplication of Richmond Bridge—plus recommendations on $28 million of short-term measures to improve the traffic flow.
So how has that worked out under the Liberals? The New South Wales government has refused to provide any funding on top of the remaining $18 million in federal Labor funding. And here we are, in 2019, and the money that was announced and committed in 2010 is only just being spent. We all know that the work being done is a drop in the ocean of what is needed given the increased population across the river. The latest promise by the Liberals of a study on where the duplicated bridge might go—a few million dollars is all that is on the table, with no funding for construction in the offing. After eight years of doing nothing at a state level—yes, they have had eight years to address these problems in their safe Liberal seat—now, on the eve of an election, they suddenly notice there is a problem and they say, 'Trust us, we'll fix it.' Well, you'll have to forgive me for being a bit cynical.
We are really at a point where we need a series of measures to provide a long-term vision for how local traffic gets around our area and across a river, including in times of crisis like bushfires and flood threat. What we are seeing in Windsor is a shocking waste of taxpayer money—$100 million to construct one extra lane across the Hawkesbury, with no improvements to the flood-prone single-lane roads either side of the bridge. A two-lane bridge is being replaced by a three-lane bridge without contraflow—and that is aside from the fact that it has destroyed an economically significant heritage site.
And you know what the Liberals will say at both a state and federal level. They will boast about the improvements they have made. The only long-term solution for the terrible delays that people face across the Hawkesbury is a third crossing, one that bypasses our major centres.