Two further accidents on the Pacific Highway in slippery conditions this morning have highlighted the plight of drivers on the still treacherous stretch of road.
One accident was near Bangalow Road, on the old Tintenbar to Ewingsdale stretch that is still being duplicated, and the other was near the new Banora Point section.
Both accidents have since cleared.
In what is undoubtedly good news for local motorists, work has now commenced on the St Helena Tunnel, with the first round of blasting starting this week.
Federal Minister for infrastructure and transport, Anthony Albanese said the tunnels will measure 434 metres long, 19 metres wide and will be approximately 46 metres below St Helena Road.
‘The tunneling is expected to take 10-12 months and when complete in 2014, will accommodate three lanes of traffic in each direction,’ he said.
‘In the coming days, workers will begin excavating the tunnel using drill and controlled blast methods to get through the strong basalt rock.
‘The tunnels will require 30,000 cubic metres of permanent concrete, more than 40,000 square metres of waterproofing membrane, contain more than 3000 steel rock bolts, and have 32 reversible jet fans for ventilation and 2.4 million litres of water stored in tanks to supply the tunnel’s fire deluge system,’ he said.
The RMS is meanwhile working to reassure local landowners that they won’t face some of the damage to property experienced by residents near the Banora Point bypass, which they are now working to fix.
Project GM Bob Higgins said that measures had already been put in place to minimise effects from blasting.
‘We do pre-surveys before and more surveys after,’ he told ABC radio this morning.
‘A number of the [Banora Point] properties we had to come back and do some work because they were so close. We don’t expect that here.’
Meanwhile, shadow minister for infrastructure and transport Warren Truss has taken yet another swipe at minister Anthony Albanese over the timing of funding for the highway upgrade.
Mr Albanese said in a media release yesterday that ‘during Senate Estimates, the Department of Infrastructure and Transport confirmed Labor’s 2016 deadline for completing the Pacific Highway has been abandoned, with $1.9 billion of their funding not coming online until after 2019.’
Mr Truss said the Coalition would make up the deficit by diverting federal funding intended for the Epping to Parramatta rail link, which was killed off by the Liberal/National state government, to the highway.