The Coalition has committed to the pre-election promises of MP Peter Hendy including upgrades to the Barton Highway and television towers for Yass and Bowning.
In June, Liberal candidate and standing member for Eden-Monaro Peter Hendy secured and committed to a $50 million upgrade of the Barton Highway during his campaign.
For months, Member for Goulburn Pru Goward, Mayor Rowena Abbey and Yass Valley Council have been appealing to the federal government for access to the promised funds.
Newly appointed Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Darren Chester, wrote to Ms Goward in early September confirming the Australian Government's four-year funding commitment of $50 million.
“This funding will secure upgrades to the Highway, including the provision of overtaking lanes and safety measures,” Mr Chester wrote.
The federal government is liaising with the state government about implementation arrangements for the commitment, prior to incorporating the project under the Infrastructure Investment Programme, which is essential for a full duplication.
“The Australian Government will continue to work closely with the NSW Government to deliver these much-needed safety and efficiency improvements for users of the highway,” he continued.
The four-year funding commitment, labelled the Barton Highway Duplication Package, does not guarantee a full duplication of the two-lane stretch of the highway, but provides $45 million for overtaking lanes which would extend the future corridor.
Another $1.75 million would go to a duplication business case which would include recommended staging and costings for the highway duplication. The remaining $3.25 million would be spent on safety upgrades, including so-called intelligent transport systems which use real-time traffic monitoring, CCTV and electronic signage to inform motorists about traffic conditions and better manage accidents.
Despite Hendy’s initial package outline, Ms Goward is confident the money could be spent on a duplication essential in driving the business case for further funding of the project.
“A duplication would skip the need for overtaking lanes,” she said. “I lobbied Peter Hendy very hard when he was a candidate and I wrote to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Transport reminding them of the commitment they made and the importance of honouring it.”
A Barton Highway Taskforce, led by the Mayor Rowena Abbey, was introduced in 2015 and includes representatives from the truck and bus industry, the NRMA, road transport professionals and the local community, primarily focused on seeking funding commitments from both State and Federal Governments.
Mayor Abbey said while the news is very welcome, the Taskforce needs to work constructively with both state and federal government to achieve the best result with the money committed.
“We’re very pleased the Coalition will honor their commitment,” she said. “Now we have to work on getting the best outcome from the business case.”
Around 12,000 motorists take to the road each day. A report published by the federal and NSW governments last year said there had been 137 crashes on the Barton Highway between 2009 and 2013, with seven fatalities and 70 crashes involving injury, with most crashes between Murrumbateman village and the ACT border.
“Anything that improves the safety and reduces travel time will improve the work life balance of the people of the Yass Valley and will drive further development,” Ms Goward said.
“It goes without saying that anything that improves safety for our motorists will be very welcome.”
Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories and Regional Communications, Fiona Nash, has also confirmed Mr Hendy’s commitment of $60,000 through a Community Development Grants program.