The Central NSW Councils (Centroc) has called for a working group to help determine the best path for an expressway between the Central West and Sydney.
A meeting between NSW Roads Minister Melinda Pavey and Centroc last Friday has been described as constructive.
The head of Centroc’s Strategic Transport group Ken Keith said there were some positive signs including confirmation by Ms Pavey the Castlereagh corridor between Kurrajong and the M7 Motorway will be preserved.
However he said there was still more work to be done and more discussions to be had.
Many of those discussions will focus on the cost of the project and its viability. Ms Pavey has said there has to be an economic benefit to the state and expressed concerns about the billions required to complete a Bells Line Expressway or a tunnel through the Blue Mountains.
Mr Keith said that was where a working party would be beneficial. Previous costings in 2007 had placed an expressway at $3 billion and he said it was important to see what had changed and what engineers could suggest.
He said if the 1700-kilometre Inland Rail project from Melbourne to Brisbane could be built for $10 billion, it should be possible to build a 100km expressway for less.
“We have asked the Minister to set up a working party or committee to investigate the best options through to Kurrajong,” the Parkes mayor said.
“They could look at whether that is a Bells Line Expressway, a tunnel or even just upgrading the existing Bells Line of Road to include more lanes and overtaking zones.
“They might rule a tunnel out, or they may find a tunnel through part of the Blue Mountains is viable.”
Whatever method is chosen to get motorists to Sydney, it shouldn’t involve a toll road, Mr Keith said.
“If you are travelling to Sydney from the north of the south you can travel on an expressway and you don’t have to pay a toll. I don’t see why the west should be any different,” he said.
“It’s only once you get into Sydney that you have to pay tolls and I don’t have a problem with that.”
Mr Keith said the state government would need the assistance of their federal counterparts to make the project a reality and said Centroc was hopeful the road would be considered a road of national significance.
But whatever happens, Mr Keith said relying on the existing road network wasn’t the answer.
“The government has said it will continue to upgrade the Great Western Highway and we agree with that but not as the main road to Sydney,” he said.
“It’s already serving three purposes, as a local road residents with school zones and lots of local intersections, for through traffic, and tourist traffic who have the Blue Mountains as a destination.
“Western NSW residents deserve an expressway to Sydney that isn’t littered with speed limit changes and school zones.”