Feds pull extra $491m for bypass from Covid package
AN additional $491 million in Federal funding has been pledged for the Coffs Harbour bypass.
It's being billed as part of the Federal Government's COVID-19 economic recovery plan but more likely the missing funds needed to ensure tunnels, and not cuttings, will be included in the final build.
The Coffs Harbour community has been waiting decades for a bypass. It's the last major section of the Pacific Highway upgrade to be complete.
In late 2019 the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was finally released but there was a bitter backlash when it was realised that large open cuttings would replace the three tunnels that had long been anticipated.
The fight to see tunnels returned to the preferred concept plan led to much division in the community.
Opposing groups were formed and divisions escalated between Coffs Harbour City Council and the State and Federal Governments.
Mayor Denise Knight feared Coffs Harbour was getting an "el cheapo" bypass and Councillors voted unanimously to form a working group to fight for tunnels to be reinstated.
State Minister for Roads at the time Melinda Pavey described it as grandstanding and Federal Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker, who has since retired, called it a stunt and waste of ratepayers' money.
The Coffs Bypass Action Group also fought long and hard to see tunnels reinstated.
In June last year Councillor Sally Townley's attempt to gain access to RMS documentation relating to design changes ended up in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
It was considered a win for people power when the EIS was eventually released in September last year showing tunnels but still major concerns as to how this more expensive option would be funded.
Now the Federal Government has announced an additional $491 million for the Coffs Harbour Bypass taking their total contribution to $1.5 billion.
Asked to clarify exactly what the additional funds were for a spokesperson for the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, and Regional Development provided the following response:
"Project costs have been refined during further planning, the development of the Environmental Impact Statement, and the refined concept design," the department spokesperson said.
"The current bypass design includes tunnels, low noise pavement, and a reduced maximum road gradient."
An extra $3 million has also been pledged to improve freight access to Coffs Harbour Airport on Hogbin Drive.
The Coffs Harbour component is part of the overall $2.7 billion announced last night by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
"Tuesday's Federal Budget will deliver funding for infrastructure which supports the Government's JobMaker plan and help New South Wales recover from COVID-19," Mr Morrison said.
"The latest funding injection builds on a series of statewide infrastructure investments from the Commonwealth in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic which now total more than $5 billion."
Key investments for NSW include $560 million for the Singleton Bypass on the New England Highway; $360 million for the Newcastle Inner City Bypass between Rankin Park and Jesmond; $120 million for the Prospect Highway Upgrade; and the additional $491 million for the Coffs Harbour Bypass taking the Federal Government's total contribution to $1.5 billion.
The Coffs Harbour Bypass will be funded under an 80:20 split between the Federal and state governments.