A $50 million investment for the Barton Highway by the NSW Government will provide a new two-lane carriageway and improved safety.
Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Melinda Pavey joined Member for Goulburn Pru Goward and Bronnie Taylor MLC in Murrumbateman to announce the investment as part of the 2017 state budget.
Mrs Pavey said the money, to be spent over the next four years, would ease congestion, improve driver safety and boost freight productivity.
“The 52 kilometre highway connects central and southwestern NSW to jobs, hospitals, schools and training opportunities in Canberra,” she said.
“Up to 12,500 vehicles use this road each day and will have more efficient and safer access to services outside of the Yass Valley.”
The new two-lane carriageway, based on a study released in October 2016 showing priority areas, will be constructed on the duplication alignment from south of Gooda Creek Road to Vallencia Drive.
As well, the Vallencia Drive and Gooda Creek Road intersections will be upgraded (among other developments), which includes bus stop facilities.
“It’s going to make a big difference. It is a big concession from the State Government to contribute $50m to this road, but we’ve listened to this community through the advocacy of Pru Goward,” Ms Pavey said.
She said the funding was made available “largely through good economic management”.
Mayor welcomes investment
Yass Valley Mayor Rowena Abbey said the combined funding of $100 million was significant.
“It’s not just the council that’s worked so hard, it’s the whole community. It’s also not just a wish, it’s a need because people die on this road as it is unfortunately a dangerous road,” she said.
“Obviously there’s more for us to do as a community to lobby the Federal Government to continue the great work that’s already started, but we look forward to continue working with them and the RMS to achieving what will only be a fantastic outcome long-term for this community.”
“A major step”: Action group
Sophie Wade, convenor of the ‘Duplicate the Barton Highway Community Action Group’, said the announcement was a positive step.
“It’s the first time we’ve seen a genuine commitment in the budget. It’s a decent figure and a good start. I’d like to make sure that they use the money for pieces of work that will make a genuine differences to safety for the community,” she said.
However Ms Wade said she was also worried that no allocation was made for the ‘mad mile’ north of Wallaroo.
“I did bring it up with the head of the RMS - Lindsay Tanner - but he said federal money is allocated to that.”
Ms Wade said a comprehensive approach by the NSW, ACT and Federal Governments would be ideal.
“I’d like to see a holistic approach, rather than money being allocated to separate problems on the highway. Rather than see money being pulled, I’d rather see genuine progress towards duplication,” she said.
On the positive, she said the latest announcement by Ms Pavey was still welcome.
“Last time we were promised money from State Government, it was subject to Federal Government funding and it never materialised. Melinda Pavey, this time, confirmed that this money is not contingent on federal money,” she said.
“The group’s efforts now are focused on trying to shape where this money is spent.”
Boost to employment
Mrs Pavey said the project would deliver 120 jobs to the local community and improve the road network for the Southern Tablelands and the Riverina.
“Improving the highway for better access to Canberra Airport and coastal ports will provide more efficient journeys for residents, businesses and visitors,” she said.
Ms Goward welcomed the investment and said the project would start before the end of the year and would align with any future duplication.
“The community has been demanding the highway be improved for more than 10 years, so it's great news that the state and federal governments have delivered,” she said.
Federal MP disappointed
The NSW funding will complement the $50 million investment by the Australian Government.
However, Dr Mike Kelly, federal member for Eden-Monaro, expressed his disappointment at the allocation.
“I found it disappointing as it continued to reference overtaking lanes and was not a commitment to full duplication,” he said.
Dr Kelly said it was essential to ‘lock in’ bipartisan support for duplication given the road’s importance to southern NSW.
“I hope they take this matter to their federal colleagues and hope they match Labor’s commitment at state and federal levels,” he said.
However, at the announcement Ms Pavey said: “We also understand this community expects and wants duplication. We’re happy to work alongside the federal government to achieve that.”