Upgrade to 'cut deaths' on Pacific Highway

1 September 2017
The final layer of pavement being poured. Credit: Nikita Ashford.
The final layer of pavement being poured. Credit: Nikita Ashford.

CONSTRUCTION workers are uniting to finish sections of the Pacific Highway upgrade following the latest statistics on road crash fatalities in Australia.

The current Transport for New South Wales Monthly Bulletin of Preliminary Traffic Crash Data showing a total of five road deaths on the Pacific Highway this August, has put pressure on the Coalition to complete the dual carriageway connecting Sydney to Brisbane on schedule by 2020.

Federal Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker told the Coffs Coast Advocate that the road will be upgraded to four lanes, on time, as promised.

A recent head-on fatal collision on the Pacific Highway, north of Grafton, has raised concerns with construction workers.

Woolgoola to Halfway Creek Project Surveyor Nathan Gardner said almost all persistently higher risk sections of highway are single carriageway.

"Perhaps if the new dual carriageway had been opened, the tragic Cowper car crash killing one young man and injuring two others would not have happened," he said.

The Roads and Maratime Services said it aims to help Australia become a nation free of high-risk roads through the Pacific Highway upgrade, one of the country's largest infrastructure projects.

Project Surveyor

 Woolgoolga to Halfway Creek Project Survery Nathan Gardner. Credit: Nikita Ashford. 

"It's not just about meeting a deadline, it's about reducing the number of crashes on this deadly strip of highway and making sure our roads are safer for future generations to come," said Mr Gardner.

"Everyone working on the upgrade is working long hard days to open the next section of highway as quickly as possible."

Federal Shadow Minister for the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development Anthony Albanese said he doubts the coalition will be able to meet their pledge of completing the upgrade by 2020.

"The funding for the Pacific Highway has undergone a major $600 million cut this year leaving me very concerned," said Mr Albanese.

Mr Albanese said the federal funding for projects on the Oxley Hwy, and the Pacific Highway's Kundabung section and the section between Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour, had been allocated by Labor.

"As that is starting to run down, what we are seeing is a failure by the Coalition Government to put the funding in," he told the Coffs Coast Advocate. 

But last week Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester opened 12km of new lanes in the section between Halfway Creek and Glenugie.

According to NSW Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Melinda Pavey, the new upgraded sections and safety improvements to the existing highway will produce notable improvements to road conditions. 

Mrs Pavey said these improvements not only support regional development but will reduce travel time and provide a more consistent, reliable and safer travel across the state.

"Motorists travelling the length of the Pacific Highway are already saving over an hour-and-three-quarters in travel time and the number of fatalities have been halved."

The Pacific Highway upgrade is now 72 per cent complete with about 22 per cent under construction.

"This brings us closer to the goal of completing the entire upgrade in 2020," said Kevin Hogan, the Federal Member for Page.

The remaining sections of highway are under preparation for major work.

The Pacific Highway will eventually provide a four-lane divided road from Hexam to Brisbane. Credit: Nikita Ashford.

All highway traffic between Woolgoolga to Halfway Creek is now temporarily divided into separate single lanes in each direction with an 80 km/h speed limit while the remainder of the upgrade is completed.

The expected completion dates of the remaining sections of the Pacific Highway upgrade will vary weather permitting and can be interactively tracked through the Roads and Maritime Services interactive progress status map