UPGRADES on the Pacific Highway are on track to bring safety and efficiency benefits to thousands of motorists who use the highway every day.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss today welcomed the breakthrough of the southbound tunnel at St Helena Hill, a major milestone for the $862 million Tintenbar to Ewingsdale Pacific Highway upgrade.
“Tunnelling teams have been working hard towards this milestone since breakthrough of the northbound tunnel in January,” Mr Truss said.
“The twin tunnels are a major part of the project which will provide a four lane divided highway from the northern end of the Ballina bypass to the Ewingsdale interchange.”
New South Wales Minister for Roads and Ports Duncan Gay said work began on this section of the upgrade in September 2012 and was expected to be complete in mid-2015.
“The twin tunnels are 19 metres wide and can carry three lanes of traffic in each direction,” Mr Gay said.
“More than 117,000 cubic metres of basalt rock has been drilled and blasted since work started on the two tunnels in December 2012.”
Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan said the long-held dream of duplicating the Pacific Highway was fast becoming a reality.
“Families and businesses on the North Coast have long understood the importance of fixing this dangerous road and the breakthrough of the southbound tunnel at St Helena Hill means it’s that much closer,” he said.
“Not only is the extensive construction work making this busy highway much safer, it’s also creating thousands of direct and indirect jobs that are of great benefit for our local economy.”
New South Wales Member for Ballina Don Page said the Australian and New South Wales governments had been jointly funding the duplication of the Pacific Highway since 1996.
“The Australian Government has committed $566 million to this section of the upgrade and the New South Wales Government has committed nearly $296 million,” Mr Page said.
“Dual carriageways significantly reduce the accident rate, which is historically very high on the Pacific Highway.
“As Member for Ballina, I welcome this milestone and look forward to the opening of the Tintenbar to Ewingsdale section, which will mean we will have dual carriageway from Ballina to Brisbane.’’
The section between Tintenbar and Ewingsdale is the last to be upgraded between Ballina and Queensland.