Minister flags Sexton Hill start in 2008

WORK on the Pacific Highway upgrade at Sexton Hill is likely to begin as soon as the middle of next year, NSW Roads Minister Eric Roozendaal said yesterday.

Mr Roozendaal ruled out an about-face on the viaduct design for the highway section dubbed NSW's worst traffic accident "black spot" by the NRMA. Nationals Richmond candidate Sue Page last week said federal Transport Minister Mark Vaile had written to the NSW government asking why the %Sexton Hill tunnel option supported by some Banora Point residents and businesses had been rejected.

Mr Roozendaal said Dr Page had been "misleading the community".

"Independent engineering assessments have shown the tunnelling required would cause significant environmental damage as well as cracking in the walls of nearby homes at the very least," Mr Roozendaal said. "After extensive community consultation, it was resolved a modified %Option B (a viaduct) was in the best %interests of the community and the %environment."

Mr Roozendaal said the NSW% government would continue to "work very closely and co-operatively with the Federal Government so that construction can commence as soon as possible once planning is finalised".

He said construction was expected to start "in mid to late 2008". The upgrade is a joint responsibility of the NSW and federal governments.

A NSW Roads and Traffic Authority spokesperson said the environmental assessment was well advanced.

"Field surveys including noise testing are nearing completion and environmental assessment documents are being prepared.

"The refined concept and environmental assessment documents are expected to be finalised by the end of year and subject to the outcomes of an adequacy check will be placed on display for public comment in early 2008. "Planning approval will then be sought from the planning minister."

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