But the Save Ballina Koalas group has described it as ‘ironic’ that while the new section of highway will run through soft soils, avoiding them was the main reason given for the RMS for detouring into a controversial koala colony in a section further south.
Federal Page MP Kevin Hogan (Nationals) said today that the final stage of the works would ‘lock in a significant section of four-lane divided highway with a consistent 110 km/h speed limit.’
‘This section will link the Ballina bypass to the north and the Coolgardie to Richmond River section of the upgrade to the south. Work includes replacing two Pacific Highway bridges over Duck and Emigrant Creeks, and upgrading about 1.8 kilometres of the highway’s southbound lanes from 300 metres south of Pimlico Road to 700 metres south of the Teven interchange,’ he said.
‘This is an important step forward in improving safety through the northern section of the Woolgoolga to Ballina upgrade, and another step closer to delivering a safer Pacific Highway.’
He described it as ‘Australia’s largest regional infrastructure project’, with about 1,000 people currently working on this section alone.
Mr Hogan said the community would see activity ramp up between Pimlico and Teven in coming weeks as major work starts on the next stage.
NSW roads minister Melinda Pavey (Nationals) said soft soil work was being carried out to ensure the road surface won’t sink and crack in the future and Pimlico Road would be moved slightly to the east to create a new permanent intersection with the Pacific Highway.
Koala plan ‘unrealistic’
But Save Ballina’s Koalas spokesperson Jeff Johnson told Echonetdaily it was ‘rather ironic to note that the highway north of Coolgardie is being duplicated along the existing alignment on the soft soils, even though this argument was used as a reason why Section 10 immediately to the south had to detour through the Blackwall Range and a nationally significant koala colony.’
‘The RMS’s controversial Ballina Koala Plan has an unrealistic figure of zero koala mortalities which was used to gain the federal government’s approval for this section of the highway,’ Mr Johnson said.
‘We accept that the ill-conceived highway route will be proceeding in the near future but you can be sure that Save Ballina’s Koalas members and local residents will be doing all they can to ensure the RMS come good on the commitments they made to reduce the impact on the Ballina Koala population,’ he added.
Work is now being carried out on 104 kilometres of the overall Woolgoolga to Ballina section, with the remaining 51 kilometres expected to start by mid-2017. The Australian and New South Wales government-funded project is expected to open to traffic by 2020, weather permitting.