Cowra support Great Western Highway upgrade but not at the expense of alternate crossing

"Have we abandoned the expressway over the mountains?" Cowra Shire councillor Bruce Miller asked after reading the minutes of a recent Central NSW Joint Organisation (JO) board meeting.

Cowra Shire Council is a member of the JO, along with the local government areas of Bathurst, Blayney, Cabonne, Forbes, Lachlan, Oberon, Orange, Parkes, Weddin, and Central Tablelands County Council.

In the minutes of the JO meeting of August 12 it was reported the Minister was seeking support from the JO and individual Councils for a duplication of the Great Western Highway over the Blue Mountains.

"I just wonder, is this a way of pushing (the expressway) to one side, what does that actually mean," Cr Miller said.

"That terminology worries me," he said.

The Australian and NSW Governments are investing more than $4.5 billion towards upgrading the Great Western Highway between Katoomba and Lithgow.

They say the upgrade "will reduce congestion, deliver safer, more efficient and reliable journeys for those travelling in, around and through the Blue Mountains, and better connect communities in the Central West".

For decades councils west of the Blue Mountains have been calling for better access including proposing an expressway.

Cr Miller called on Cowra Shire to make it clear it did not support the duplication of the Great Western Highway at the expense of an alternate crossing.

"Our preference is a good safe, fast crossing of the Bells Line in some form or another," Cr Miller said.

"The best and safest route for all of us west of the mountains is a second route.

"I absolutely support an upgrade of the Great Western Highway but it does not need to be duplicated and that's the very clear message we should give to the JO and the government.

"Our objective remains a new route over the mountains in the vicinity of the earlier identified route of the Bells Line of Road.

'We deserve a decent route over the mountains, we need it, we shouldn't go away from that point," Cr Miller said.

Cowra mayor Bill West, who attends JO meetings, said "The government has gone cold on the Bells Line of Road expressway and is pouring all of its energy into the Great Western Highway".

"What the JO has said is that the Bells corridor is still very much on our mind and there are still conversations going on with councils on the western side of Sydney around getting their support. It has been difficult getting their support," Cr West said.

NSW Minister for Transport Paul Toole alongside the Great Western Highway near Bathurst.

NSW Minister for Transport Paul Toole alongside the Great Western Highway near Bathurst.

"I think the JO is trying to make duplication of the Great Western Highway happen, it doesn't mean that the JO has walked away from the Bells Corridor, but the Great Western Highway is happening and we're quite happy to say at least something is happening.

Unhappy with any move that might jeopardise construction of an alternate crossing Cr Miller said: "To settle for a duplication is a terrible terrible decision and a terrible position for us to take".

"We shouldn't be giving ground at all, governments come and go, we should be continuing that fight, we shouldn't be settling for what would be a second rate position even though it would cost billions of dollars, we shouldn't allow it to happen," Cr Miller said.

Recent bushfires and rainfall which closed Bells Line for long periods, Cr Judi Smith said, showed that two roads in separate areas across the Blue Mountains is what is needed.

"I'm certainly in favour of continuing to push for Bells to be upgraded as well," Cr Smith said.

"We do need two roads," Cr Peter Wright added.

"With the Great Western Highway it appears they are only going to fix the bottleneck from Hartley up to Blackheath, there's still a hell of a lot of trouble from there on.

"The Bells Line provides more opportunity to put in a dual line road because of less buildings along it. They built that first road with minimal machinery but they don't seem to be able to improve on it.

"The Bells Line definitely needs to stay at the front of our discussions," Cr Wright said.

What do you think?

This story Cowra upset that a second highway crossing appears off the agenda first appeared on Cowra Guardian.