The future of one of the nation’s deadliest roads remains in doubt as federal and state leaders bicker over funding for the upgrade of the Pacific Highway.
Tensions erupted between the federal government and New South Wales state government in May when the federal government allocated only $3.6 billion to finish the duplication of the highway – equivalent to half of the cost of the upgrade.
In its budget on Tuesday, however, the New South Wales government allocated only $1.5 billion for its share of the project, insisting that it fund only 20 percent of the upgrade costs.
As a result, a funding shortfall of $2.1 billion has emerged, calling into question whether or not the project will be finished by the scheduled date of 2016.
The New South Wales government says the former state government had an agreement with the Commonwealth for an 80/20 funding split between federal and state governments. But the federal government insists that no such agreement has ever existed, and that a mutual commitment to each fund half of the project dates back as far as 1996.
Predictably, also, the mud-slinging match between federal transport minister Anthony Albanese and the New South Wales government continues, with Albanese referring to the state government’s failure to fund half of the project as a ‘betrayal of North Coast residents and all who use the Pacific Highway’ and saying that the state government’s idea of nation-building was ‘coming to the Commonwealth and asking us to pay for their commitments’.
While all this goes on, the highway, which claimed more than 400 lives during the fifteen year period spanning 1995-2009 and has large stretches of undivided road along which all types of vehicles travel at travel simultaneously at speeds around 100km/h, remains one of the most dangerous roads in the country.
By Ahn Jae Wook