Tuesday, 16 February 2021
Roads: Pacific Highway
Late in 2020, we saw a major milestone reached on the Pacific Highway upgrade. Motorists can now travel between Sydney and Brisbane on a four-lane divided highway. Since 1996, the Commonwealth and the New South Wales government have worked together to undertake the largest civil infrastructure project in the country, transforming and upgrading the Pacific Highway from Hexham up to the Queensland border. The last 155 kilometre stretch of the puzzle from Ballina to Woolgoolga is now open. It's saving at least 25 minutes—$4.9 billion of spend has gone into that.
In my first term representing the Lyne electorate, we had the Oxley Highway to Kempsey upgrade. That was virtually another billion dollars, with multiple crossings. But this last piece of the puzzle means we've completed the duplication to the Queensland highway. Since 1996, fatalities have dropped, particularly in this last 7½ years. In 1996 there were 40 fatal crashes. In 2019 there were only 20. All the major towns have been bypassed now. We have budget allocations for the bypass of Coffs Harbour, but, whilst it's not bypassed, it's duplicated and dual lane the whole way. With these projects now completed and the other bypass of Coffs Harbour on the agenda and funding set aside, we need to move onto the next phase: a specific program that goes back to completing all the intersectional upgrades along the Pacific Highway—that is, a specific program that gets these intersections that are incredibly dangerous and a source of huge logjams on weekends and at peak times. Across the Hunter we have $1½ billion on the table. New South Wales are doing the planning to bypass from Black Hill to Raymond Terrace and join again, beyond Tomago, at Heatherbrae. That will be a great boon.
The big ones that are causing the fatalities are: the Medowie Road intersection with the Pacific Highway, which links the Newcastle airport and Williamtown Air Force base; the Bucketts Way intersection that feeds the traffic down from the Gloucester and Barrington Tops; the Myall Way intersection at Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest; the Failford Road intersection with the Pacific Highway feeding into Forster-Tuncurry at Nabiac; the Harrington Road crossing that should be linking Coopernook and Harrington—it's an incredibly dangerous intersection at Harrington Road—and lastly the Houston Mitchell Drive at Lake Cathie and Bonny Hills. It's only time before we have a multiple car, truck or bus crash in that place. We all realise that of these intersections are a cause for great concern. They are all important, and I urge the New South Wales government to get on and start the detailed planning.
The Commonwealth government has a longstanding agreement with the state government, an 80 per cent to 20 per cent mix, on the Pacific Highway. We have delivered our promise since 2013: $5.3 billion in the biggest civil infrastructure program. Back in the nineties, when they were planning it, they didn't have the flyovers, so 110-kilometre-per-hour traffic has to slow down to cross traffic lanes. Speed reduction is necessary because of the fatalities on the Medowie Road. Two of the directors of one of the local clubs were killed. There was a fatality at the Bucketts Way intersection. Trucks with big long trailers trying to cross a four-lane highway is just a recipe for a major disaster.
The sooner we get that commitment, the sooner we can plan here at the federal level. I urge all those people in the planning in New South Wales. They have done a lot of the concept designs. It's very advanced. We just need a rock-solid commitment so that we can move onto the next phase of the Pacific Highway upgrade, and that is ironing out all these dangerous intersections, with no more logjams for seven or eight kilometres on long weekends, reducing fatalities, increasing safety, increasing productivity and having an intersection-free way into the Tomago industrial area and into the Newcastle Airport. It's a no-brainer. We just have to get on and complete it.