THE $862 million Tintenbar to Ewingsdale section of the Pacific Highway near Ballina will be officially opened to traffic by Acting Prime Minister Warren Truss and NSW Minister for Roads Duncan Gay today.
Mr Truss said the Australian Government had contributed more than $566 million towards the project, which incorporates a four lane divided highway from the Ewingsdale interchange to the Ballina Bypass and the St Helena twin tunnels.
“The Pacific Highway upgrade is one of the largest infrastructure projects in regional Australia and aims to reduce travel times for motorists and road freight, improve safety and cater for future demand,” Mr Truss said.
“The staged opening of the 17 kilometre Tintenbar to Ewingsdale upgrade is a remarkable achievement for North Coast residents and the thousands of motorists who travel along the Pacific Highway upgrade every year.”
NSW Minister for Roads Duncan Gay said on top of providing safety and travel time benefits, the upgrade will be one of the most iconic stretches of road delivered by the Pacific Highway upgrade.
“The Tintenbar to Ewingsdale upgrade adds another iconic view to the Pacific Highway travel experience, complementing in particular the Gateway entrance to Banora Point and views of Mount Warning between Yelgun and Chinderah,” Mr Gay said.
“Motorists travelling northbound will experience a unique and spectacular view of Cape Byron as they emerge from the St Helena Tunnels, a key part of the upgrade.
“Major work has been underway on the upgrade since mid-2012 and at building peak, more than 685 people were employed across the project to ensure it opened to locals and visitors in this great part of the state before Christmas.
“About 60 per cent of the Pacific Highway is now complete, and next year more than 48 kilometres of the Pacific Highway upgrade is expected to open to traffic followed by a further 83 kilometres in 2017.”
Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan said construction of the 434-metre long St Helena twin tunnels is one of the most impressive parts of the Pacific Highway duplication.
“At their deepest point, the twin tunnels are about 46 metres below St Helena Road and were excavated through high strength basalt rock,” Mr Hogan said.
“The tunnel is supported with state of the art emergency warning and monitoring systems. A traffic control centre has also been installed on top of the St Helena twin tunnels which will ensure immediate response to on-road incidents.
“There is still much work to be carried out on the Pacific Highway upgrade – particularly between Woolgoolga and Ballina – but events like today show the end is certainly in sight.”
Ben Franklin MLC said the upgrade provided a huge safety boost for local and long distance travellers.
“A key feature of the upgrade is the separation of local and highway traffic with a continuous alternative local road link between Tintenbar and Ewingsdale for motorists including school buses,” Mr Franklin said.
“The upgrade includes interchanges to enable motorists to safely enter and exit the highway as well as seven new bridges to improve road freight efficiency.
“Additional safety measures have also been installed for emergency vehicles including U-turn facilities along the length of the project enabling them to attend to accidents sooner.”
Traffic will be switched on to different stages of the upgrade before Christmas through to Easter 2016 to enable the final Ross Lane and Ewingsdale interchanges access ramps and other finishing work to be completed.
The Australian and NSW governments are contributing $862 million to the Tintenbar to Ewingsdale upgrade, more than $566 million and $295 million respectively.