NSW minister for roads Duncan Gay yesterday announced a ‘refined concept option’ for the Bangalow interchange on the Tintenbar to Ewingsdale section of the Pacific Highway upgrade that includes access to and from the new freeway.
‘I’m pleased to announce that after extensive community engagement and public feedback, the refined concept design option will provide access to and from the new highway,’ Mr Gay said yesterday.
This is despite a public meeting in the village last year demanding that there be no direct freeway access.
The new plan effectively mirrors the current traffic situation in Bangalow, with traffic to and from Ballina and further south using the new highway, and traffic to and from the north using the old highway via Granuaille Road.
The planned roundabout, which triggered the community outcry, will be lowered by almost 11 metres to reduce the level of impact on the Bangalow community from the highway, low impact lighting will be used and the existing bridges taking the old highway over Bangalow Road will be removed.
Community response to the changes has so far been mixed, with Bangalow Chamber of Commerce president Greg Crump telling ABC radio this morning that the latest design ‘has many benefits for everybody and I think will answer all of the community’s concerns that they had with the original interchange’.
But Macadamia Castle owner Tony Gilding believes the new plan will divert traffic away from his business on the old highway at Knockrow and now wonders whether his business will survive.
In response to concerns with the original interchange plan, a working party was formed between Bangalow community representatives and Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) to develop alternative concepts to replace the previously proposed interchange.
Mr Gay admitted that ‘at the time the working party was formed, the people of Bangalow did not want access to and from the upgraded highway to their village’.
But he said that the submissions relating to the proposed alternatives swayed the decision to proceed with access.
‘From the 298 submissions received from the community, it was clear the majority of the responses in fact wanted access to and from the new highway to be retained contrary to what was originally suggested,’ he said.
The working party developed three alternative options that did not provide access to the new highway while still meeting safety criteria for the St Helena tunnel. These options were put to the community for comment.
A community flyer was delivered to all residences in the area and three staffed displays and information sessions were held.
The community was invited to join these sessions to provide their comments and feedback and learn more about the three options.
Other key issues raised by the community in the submissions process included reducing the amount of upgrade infrastructure in the Bangalow area, reducing traffic through the main street of Bangalow, safety, local business impacts and noise.
These concerns were considered in the refined concept, Mr Gay said.
He added that RMS would continue to work with local residents to address other impacts including noise and lighting as part of the design and building process.
The decision report and diagram for the refined concept design is available on the project website at www.rms.nsw.gov.au/pacific or via the information line on 1800 882 787 (toll free).
RMS has awarded the design and construct contract to build the Tintenbar to Ewingsdale Pacific Highway upgrade to Baulderstone Pty Ltd.
Early work and pre-building activities are being carried out. Major building is due to start by mid 2012.