$100mil shortfall

A $100 million funding black hole could delay the completion of the upgrade of the Sexton Hill black spot that was due to start construction this year and be completed in 2012.

Planning approval for the $310 million, 2.5-kilometre dual-carriage highway linking Barneys Point Bridge to the southern end of the Tweed Heads bypass was announced by NSW Minister for Roads Michael Daley and Member for Richmond Justine Elliot on March 25.

But as yet the full amount needed for the six-lane upgrade has not been funded, and members of the Community Highway Group are concerned costs could blow out and delay the completion of the new road.

“We don't want to delay the start of work on a solution to the Sexton Hill black spot, but we want to see the best outcome for the people of the Tweed,” said Community Highway Group member Rod Bates.

“How can they start a project when it has not been fully funded?

“After all the years of delay - this project has been in the planning stages since 1994 - how can the Tweed community be confident work will start at the end of this year if there is not enough money set aside to cover the estimated costs.

“The final design has not been made, so that amount could also blow out during construction.

“The RTA is about to call for tenders for the project, so we want to know if the final design will be done by the company that wins the tender, or if the design will be completed before then, because this could change the final cost.”

Minister for Roads Michael Daley told The Tweed Daily News that the upgrade would begin later this year, with the new highway expected to be open to traffic by mid-2012 and be completed by the end of 2012.

“The Federal Government has committed $210 million and additional funding is being considered by State and Federal governments,” Mr Daley said.

“The project is estimated to cost roughly $310 million by the time it is completed.

“A final design will be prepared for further community input.”

Ms Elliot would not confirm if the Federal Government was considering funding the remaining $100 million needed for the upgrade.

“The Rudd Labor government is committed to all its election commitments, including the Banora Point upgrade,” she said yesterday.

“This planning approval means we're well on track to see full construction on this project commence by the end of this year - a full six months ahead of the original schedule.”

Member for Tweed Geoff Provest is pushing for Minister Daley to meet with community members about the funding shortfall, as well as concerns about the current design of the upgrade.

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