Communities along New South Wales’ North Coast have come together at New Italy to celebrate the completion of the Pacific Highway upgrade, with the final section, from Woolgoolga to Ballina, now open to traffic.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said this marks a historic day, as the largest road infrastructure project to be undertaken in Australia is now complete, delivering 657 kilometres of duplicated highway from Hexham to the Queensland border.
“We set the goal to deliver this $15 billion project by the end of 2020 and despite the challenges we’ve faced along the way such as bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve delivered,” the Prime Minister said.
“Across New South Wales, we will be getting people home sooner and safer for generations to come thanks to this generation-defining infrastructure project.”
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the upgrade had created more than 100,000 direct and indirect jobs over its lifespan.
“Since the first shovel went in the ground, this project has injected billions of dollars into the economy, and it will drive long-term benefits for businesses and communities along the North Coast,” the Premier said.
“We continue to invest in improving journeys from Sydney all the way to the Queensland border, with almost $4 billion committed by the NSW and Australian governments to build the Coffs Harbour bypass and extend the M1 Pacific Motorway to Raymond Terrace.”
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said it was a landmark day for communities right along the North Coast.
“The Pacific Highway is more than a road to them – it is part of their story, connecting them to the rest of Australia and each other,” the Deputy Prime Minister said.
“More than 40,000 people, including many locals, have worked directly on this project over 24 years. They should be proud that they have helped deliver safer, faster and more reliable journeys to millions of motorists every year.”
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the upgrade had transformed journeys along the North Coast, cutting travel times by more than two and a half hours.
“Not that long ago the Pacific Highway was known as a goat track, but now it’s 657 kilometres of dual-carriageway highway, which will support tourism, unlock new opportunities for regional economies and drive higher productivity for freight,” the Deputy Premier said.
“Many people have fought passionately to bring this project to life over many years – and today their vision of a four-lane highway is finally a reality.”
NSW Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole said the number of fatal crashes on the highway had more than halved since the upgrade began.
“From day one, this upgrade has been about saving lives,” Minister Toole said.
“Since the upgrade began in 1996, fatalities have fallen by more than half. To put it in context, in the next 20 years it is expected that there will be 8,039 fewer crashes, 4,218 fewer injuries and critically 565 lives that will be saved. That’s 565 families who will see their loved ones come home at the end of the day.”
Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan said the scale of the project demonstrated the Australian Government’s commitment to improving local infrastructure in the state of NSW.
“The project has been a remarkable engineering feat with more than 600 new bridges built along the stretch from Hexham to the Queensland border, and more than 35 new or improved rest areas now available for drivers,” Assistant Minister Hogan said.
State Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis said the project was a source of vital support for the region.
“Infrastructure keeps people employed and regional economies ticking, supporting safer, faster journeys for our local community and freight operators,” Mr Gulaptis said.
The Pacific Highway upgrade has been jointly funded by the Australian and New South Wales governments over more than 20 years from 1996 to 2020.
The final section of the Woolgoolga to Ballina project – the last project to be completed as part of the Pacific Highway upgrade – is now fully operational.
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