FIX IT NOW: Work would start tomorrow if funds were available

Patricia White.

Patricia White.

Princes Highway upgrades are “shovel ready” but can’t proceed because of funding. 

A Roads and Maritime (RMS) Princes Highway corridor strategy report outlines those upgrades in a 20-year plan, but the federal and state governments are not forthcoming with the funding needed to proceed. 

South East Australian Transport Strategy (SEATS) chairperson and Shoalhaven City Councillor Patricia White said the RMS would “start tomorrow” on upgrading the highway, but needed a funding commitment. 

The SEATS committee meets everything three months to discuss the highway from Wollongong to Melbourne. 

Mrs White said fatality figures shown in the strategy report had “doubled” in the past 18 months. 

“This was made in 2016. What is horrifying to me is that when you read the statistics about fatalities between Jervis Bay Road and Milton, the figures have more than doubled,” she said. 

“These figures are for five years but in the past 18 months, the lives lost on the road have doubled.”

The fatality rate was only going to increase as the number of visitors did, Mrs White said. 

“This report looks at the deaths on the road from 2009 to 2014. From 2013, we have had another two million people visit the Shoalhaven,” she said. 

“We don’t have public transport and they had to get here; they had to come by car. 

“Let’s say there are two people in a car, that means we have had a million vehicles come down this road that weren’t included in this report. 

“The more people who are traveling through, we are looking at a disaster of more fatalities. 

“The more people who come, the more freight we need so we have more trucks on the road. People will know work has recently started at Manildra, we are going to see another 73 to 78 coal trucks a week. They are going to be on the Princes Highway and we need it upgraded. 

“They may not have an accident, but more cars and more trucks means more liability for something bad happening.”

I’m angry, I’m really angry. I moved here in 1994 and I have seen my friends, I have seen my children’s friends, killed on that highway.

Patricia White

Calling on both levels of government to work together and act now, Mrs White said she was “angry" about the lack of attention paid to the highway. 

Although there had been upgrades to sections of the road, it was not enough. 

“The governments, they read these reports and they know the issues. It is about time they got on with it and funded it,” Mrs White said.

“Don’t have this same argument in 20 years time, we need it started. 

“I’m angry, I’m really angry. I moved here in 1994 and I have seen my friends, I have seen my children’s friends, killed on that highway. 

“We have run campaigns before and, yes we have done major work, but it isn’t good enough. 

“If we are doubling our statistics in 18 months, does that mean in another 18 months time we are going to have another 20 fatalities on this road before we even sit down again and start putting the shovel in the ground to do something.” 

The federal government is currently funding 80 per cent of upgrades to the Pacific Highway, which is a state road. Mrs White said that formula needed to be applied to the Princes Highway right away. 

“We need to force them to act. I don’t want to be the Pacific Highway and wait 50 or 60 years to be completed,” she said.

“Every day I get on that highway and I think ‘is it going to be me, is it going to be my son, is it going to be a friend’. 

“Every time I hear there is an accident, I think ‘who is it?’. I don’t want to live like that anymore, I want to be able to know that we have the safest possible highway for future generations.”

“They need to get started tomorrow so in 10 years time we have something.”

The Fix It Now campaign calls on the state and federal governments to agree to an 80-20 funding formula to enable a major highway upgrade.

If you are concerned about the highway or would like to tell your story, email john.hanscombe@fairfaxmedia.com.au.

This story FIX IT NOW: Work would start tomorrow if funds were available first appeared on South Coast Register.