Bypass tunnels still on the agenda, incoming MP vows
INCOMING Federal Member for Cowper Pat Conaghan has taken to social media to correct a slip of the tongue on live television that he was supporting cuttings and not tunnels on the Coffs Harbour bypass.
"Tonight (Monday) while doing a live cross on Prime7 News I misspoke while answering a question on the Coffs Bypass," Mr Conaghan wrote on social media.
"I want to clarify that I believe tunnels not cuttings to be the best option.
During the live cross from Port Macquarie, Mr Conaghan was asked the question by news anchor Liz Gwynn "Everyone is talking about the Coffs Harbour Bypass, where do you stand on the big question tunnels or cuttings?"
Mr Conaghan responded: "I hit the ground running this morning I spoke to Gurmesh Singh and I've already made an appointment with the Minister for Rural Roads for next week.
"I believe the cuttings would be the best option, we are still waiting for the environmental impact statement to come back, but if it's tunnels the community wants then provided that comes back in the EIS then it's tunnels they will get.
Mr Conaghan explained his first reference to cuttings, was a slip of the tongue, due to the rigours of a long hard fought campaign and a serious lack of sleep since Election Day.
"Obviously it was a mistake. I have been fighting for tunnels for months.
"I need to show the community that what I have said in the past is exactly what I'll do," he said.
To date the Morrison Government has committed $971 million to the long awaited 14km Pacific Highway upgrade.
Due for a start to construction next year, the bypass would effectively stop interstate traffic and trucks from passing through the city centre en masse.
Under an 80:20 split the State Government has already invested $200 million into the planning of the $1.2 billion project.
There has been some speculation if three tunnels were to be included in the design for Roberts Hill, Shephards Lane and Gatelys Rd the cost of the project could rise to upwards of $1.5 billion.
Projected costs on the project, would be finalised publicly once the RMS awards the construction tender to a successful road building company or consortium.
Questions within the community have asked about the passage of trucks transporting dangerous goods through the city, which in NSW are prohibited from entering tunnels.
If the project team and engineers support the community's call for tunnels, this would either require a legislation change, or the city would have to tolerate up to one truck an hour, carrying dangerous goods, travelling on the current highway and passing through the centre of Coffs Harbour.
In March, the Coffs Harbour City Council, which has campaigned for tunnels not cuttings, released the findings of a community survey undertaken by Jetty Research where 400 residents were asked their opinion on the bypass.
Just six of the 400 residents polled called for cuttings on the project.
The Advocate's own poll of readers in September last year, found 1100 online readers out of 1442 supported the inclusion of tunnels.
Thirty seven of those polled were undecided and 305 supported the introduction of land bridges and a cutting, as previously proposed by the RMS last year.