Gap in Pacific Highway funding

THE gap between the money allocated to the Pacific Highway upgrade and what is needed could be up to $1 billion more than previously thought, a senior public servant has confirmed.

In a Senate Estimates hearing, Infrastructure and Transport Department secretary Mike Mrdak said it would cost between $6 billion and $7 billion to finish the highway to dual-carriageway standard.

The figure assumes the NSW Government will match the conditional $750 million allocated in the Federal Budget.

Mr Mrdak told the committee the Federal Government had committed $4.1 billion to the highway in the current funding period, which ends in 2014, while the former NSW Government had invested $500 million.

There was still another 94.4km of highway, including the Ewingsdale to Tintenbar upgrade, to be completed within the three years.

That left 235.6km, costing between $6 billion and $7 billion, to be completed in the two years remaining before the 2016 deadline.

The NRMA estimated in 2009 it would take more than $6 billion to complete the upgrade after 2014.

That figure has never been contested, but this is the first time a government official has publicly confirmed the outstanding cost of the project.

Nationals Leader Warren Truss pointed to the confirmation, saying “the Pacific Highway project is now officially on the skids”.

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