Regional highways need duplication

28 May 2016

I read recently about proposed improvements at an airport in Merimbula, on the South Coast of NSW, which might be a boost for tourism in the area.  It might have merit, but there’s also a political angle to it.

Much of the South Coast is in the Federal electorate of Eden-Monaro, currently held by the Liberal Party by a narrow margin.  Eden-Monaro is always a watched electorate at Federal elections.  Since 1972, no government has been elected without winning Eden-Monaro.  It was in 1972 that the Labor Party won its first Federal election since the 1940s, and it was holding Eden-Monaro before that election, but since that time Eden-Monaro has changed hands whenever governments have changed.  The Liberal Party won it while winning office in 1975, and Labor won it back while winning office in 1983.  At subsequent elections to result in changes of government, specifically in 1996 and 2007 and 2013, Eden-Monaro went with the new government.

But there’s something missing in the question about what’s needed for the South Coast, if not other regions across NSW.  Most of them have major highways, but they’re all undivided two-lane roads, and any one of them could be totally closed to traffic in the event of one single road crash.  If these regions are to grow and lure people out there, these regional highways need upgrades, ideally total duplication.

The Princes Highway is the main highway on the South Coast.  I haven’t been on it in decades, but I remember it being largely a undivided road, and I know of accidents in recent years having totally blocked it.  How can this be helpful for those who live on the South Coast, or those who visit it?

I don’t understand why nobody proposes to completely upgrade the Princes Highway to a duplicated road.  The South Coast’s population has long been growing, but its main highway doesn’t seem that good.  But it’s only one of many regional highways around NSW in of upgrading, if not total duplication, especially if the population grows in the areas that these regional highways service.

Much focus over decades has been on the Pacific Highway.  Since two horrible road accidents involving buses occurred on that road in late 1989, much of the highway has been upgraded to a dual carriageway, but it’s still undivided and dangerous in many sections.  They should’ve been upgraded years ago, especially when governments were wallowing in revenue of mining booms and had massive budget surpluses.  In light of the failure to complete the upgrading of the Pacific Highway during the years of budget surpluses, having a budget deficit is no excuse for leaving it undivided.

Aside from the Pacific Highway, many other regional highways should be upgraded to duplicated roads.  They include the New England, Mitchell, and Sturt highways.  Those highways service six of seven so-called Evocities in NSW – the State government uses this term to describe major regional cities to which people are being encouraged to move.  The New England Highway servicing Armidale and Tamworth, the Mitchell Highway servicing Dubbo and Orange and Bathurst, and the Sturt Highway servicing Wagga Wagga are all undivided roads.  One single accident could close any of these highways to traffic.  Of the seven Evocities, only Albury lies along a highway which is completely divided, namely the Hume Highway.

Unless these regional highways are upgraded, regional centres won’t attract people to them as easily as they might.  And we need regional centres to attract people, who might otherwise end up in congested cities like Sydney.

I support upgrading the Princes Highway on the South Coast and those NSW highways mentioned above.  They might cost money, but they’ll also save money as accidents would be less likely to close them.  I believe that if you get your infrastructure right, especially your transport infrastructure, the people will be lured over.

 

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