BIG-TICKET roads projects can be both a huge boon or a huge bust for politicians.
As we saw at Kelso on Tuesday, nothing brings the politicians out of the woodwork quicker than the ribbon-cutting at the end of a major road upgrade.
There was a really good story to tell at Kelso as the Great Western Highway widening was completed ahead of schedule despite some difficult weather last year.
Already the upgrade has been welcomed by motorists and the marked improvement of the look of the entrance to our city for drivers coming from Sydney cannot be underestimated.
Drivers now feel they are coming into a prosperous, successful city rather than just another whistlestop on the highway.
But, as any politician will tell you, you can never please everyone. Even with a project as successful as this, there are detractors.
First, the government has to wear a $19 million budget blowout despite the project being completed ahead of schedule.
That’s not a lot of money in terms of a state budget, but it is a significant figure given the Great Western Highway was supposed to come in at $85 million.
A blowout of more than 20 per cent can’t be ignored.
Then there was the controversy over the closure of the Lee Street diversion.
Despite the opening of the Lee Street level crossing only ever being intended as a temporary measure, the Western Advocate Facebook page was inundated with posts from our readers demanding it be retained.
Such a move, though, would fly in the face of a state government policy forbidding the opening of any new level crossings due to – very real – safety concerns and so there was never any real chance the diversion would be stay open.
That created another distraction for Roads Minister Melinda Pavey at Tuesday’s official opening when she would have preferred to have been focusing on the good news.
And, of course, the major problem for governments when it comes to roads spending is that the job is never finished.
As soon as the cars were travelling smoothly along the new dual-lane highway at Kelso questions were being asked about when the work would be extended to Raglan.
That will mean more money, more delays during construction and the risk of more budget blowouts – but at least there will be a photo opportunity when it’s finished.