Highway inquiry gets OK



A PARLIAMENTARY inquiry into the Pacific Highway appears certain after Greens MP Ian Cohen yesterday announced Coalition and key cross-bench MPs had agreed to back the move.

The announcement came as the federal government handed over the last $40 million of a $650 million 10-year commitment to the highway in Tuesday's budget and confirmed plans to pump another $160 million into the road in 2006-07.

It also came as NSW Roads Minister Michael Costa and Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson prepared for a meeting next week on plans to use private funding and tollways to get the highway upgraded faster.

Under that plan, the upgraded highway would be renamed the Pacific Motorway and tolls would be imposed on long-distance traffic passing through the upgraded sections.

Local traffic would be exempt from the tolls and existing tracts of highway would be kept for local roads, as had been done with the old highway, now the Tweed Valley Way, when the Yelgun-to-Chinderah section was built.

Mr Cohen said the inquiry would be run by the same committee which looked into the axing a year ago of the Northern Rivers XPT.

Ballina MP Don Page yesterday said the two Coalition MPs on the committee had promised to back the inquiry, which, combined with cross-bench MPs on the committee, gave Mr Cohen four of the seven votes needed to force the inquiry.



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