A member of the NSW government has joined the calls for an expressway to be built over the Blue Mountains.
Nationals MLC and Parliamentary Secretary for Western NSW Rick Colless said western NSW residents deserved a quick and safe road over the Great Dividing Range and shouldn’t have to wait decades for it to happen.
Mr Colless called on his government to make a commitment to build an expressway and said they should be looking to start work in the next year or two.
“It’s about time we address this. We’ve had two major projects that are becoming a reality in the Inland Rail and the Western Sydney airport and we need a good transport link,” he said.
“It has to happen and it has to be an expressway. I don’t know that it has to be on the Bells Line, I think we have to look at the options but it has to be dual-lane all the way to Lithgow, and possibly even Bathurst.
“Even the road between Bathurst and Orange, there are sections that need significant improvement.”
The Central NSW Councils (CENTROC) and Bathurst Business Chamber renewed their calls for the Bells Line Expressway to be built last week.
Melinda Pavey said she was aware of the importance of the issue in western NSW but wasn’t able to make any commitments.
Mr Colless said neither the existing Bells Line of Road or Great Western Highway were acceptable major roads, compared to the Pacific or Hume highways that serviced the north and south coast regions.
However he said his own party’s plan for the next 40 years made no mention of an improved link over the Blue Mountains.
“The transport study to 2056 made virtually no mention of an expressway. There was mention of reserving a corridor for a linking road through Richmond,” he said.
“If you look at the Bells Line and the Great Western Highway, both of those roads are basically goat tracks compared to the roads that run north and south of Sydney.”
Mr Colless said there had been “tremendous improvements” made to the Great Western Highway but the number of school zones and changes in speed meant it wasn’t fit to call a major highway.
“If you look at the development that has gone on in the Hunter Valley and the Southern Highlands, it’s just enormous and it’s important that western NSW doesn’t miss out on that,” he said.
The government has been criticised for its decision to build two new stadiums in Sydney at a cost of $2 billion, instead of other infrastructure.
Mr Colless said he was “ambivalent” about a replacement for the 19-year-old ANZ stadium, but said that spending didn’t necessarily come at the cost of other infrastructure.
“The state is in a good financial position and it’s not just stadia, there are a lot of worthwhile projects that are getting started,” he said.
“I hope we can get an expressway sorted out soon, so we could see something start in the next year or two.”