BATHURST transport industry stalwart Graeme Burke says a Great Western Highway tunnel in the Blue Mountains should remain a top priority for the NSW Government as it considers whether to delay some of its biggest projects.
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"It's probably the number one project anywhere in NSW that needs to be done," Mr Burke said.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Tuesday that the NSW Government's independent infrastructure body had recommended the state's $27 billion infrastructure spend be diverted to smaller projects that will provide "high returns and faster paybacks with less budget and delivery risks".
The planned 11-kilometre Great Western Highway tunnel, from Blackheath to Little Hartley, is reported to be one of the projects that the government is being recommended to put on ice.
The SMH says Infrastructure NSW - which provides five-yearly independent advice to government on the most important infrastructure priorities for the state for the next two decades - is concerned about surging construction costs and global labour shortages blowing out project budgets.
Mr Burke - who has been a vocal critic of the Central West's road access to Sydney for some time, but particularly so in recent years as flood damage and fires have closed the Great Western Highway and Bells Line of Road - said the region could not afford to wait any longer for an improved highway.
"The people of the Central West are being cheated and cheated," he said.
He said dual lanes all the way through the Blue Mountains had been delayed for too long - particularly considering the antiquated nature of parts of the highway.
The convict-built bridge at Victoria Pass, he said, might carry 100 tonnes of weight in the one spot these days when heavy vehicles travelling in either direction are briefly side by side.
"But I'm not only saying it from the point of view of road transport," he said.
Mr Burke said he has friends in the Blue Mountains who don't bother leaving their houses on a sunny, busy weekend because of the problems of traffic on the highway.
"And the people of the Central West deserve better - not only the people in Bathurst, but Lithgow, Orange, Dubbo," he said.
The Great Western Highway upgrade, which includes the proposed tunnel under Blackheath and Mount Victoria but also a duplication of the existing highway elsewhere, is being jointly funded by the NSW and Commonwealth governments.
The two tiers of government have committed $4.5 billion so far, though the Commonwealth's commitment came under the previous Morrison government.
One of the latest details released about the highway upgrade was the plan for a flyover interchange at Coxs River Road - not far from where the Lolly Bug shop was located - as part of making the highway four lanes between Coxs River Road and the Hartley Cemetery.
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