Lob­by­ing heats up on al­ter­na­tive by­pass de­sign

The Coffs Coast Advocate - - NEWS - JA­NINE WAT­SON Ja­nine.Wat­[email protected]­s­coas­tad­vo­cate.com.au

AN AL­TER­NA­TIVE Coffs Har­bour by­pass de­sign is at­tract­ing in­creas­ing at­ten­tion from can­di­dates in the up­com­ing state and fed­eral elec­tions.

Craig Mur­ray, a civil en­gi­neer with more than 30 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence on ma­jor road projects, has been work­ing on the de­sign as an al­ter­na­tive to the cut­tings cur­rently be­ing pro­posed.

The al­ter­na­tive would in­clude a com­bi­na­tion of tun­nels, viaducts (long span bridges across farms and en­vi­ron­men­tally sen­si­tive ar­eas) and some cut­ting and fill­ing.

Mr Mur­ray is from Wool­go­olga and works three days a week as a re­tained con­sul­tant on Syd­ney’s WestCon­nex project.

He has a broad range of ex­pe­ri­ence, in­clud­ing geotech­ni­cal en­gi­neer­ing (drilling and as­sess­ing ground con­di­tions) and route se­lec­tion; and has worked for the RMS, lo­cal govern­ment and as an in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tor and tech­ni­cal ad­viser.

“I am a lo­cal so I care about lo­cals, and as both a lo­cal and an ex­pe­ri­enced en­gi­neer, I’ve taken the op­por­tu­nity to try to get a bet­ter out­come.”

Mr Mur­ray be­lieves the cur­rent plan is un­sat­is­fac­tory be­cause of the larger foot­print it will leave due to the cut­tings and re­sult­ing fill.

“This de­sign looks like it’s been done for a green­field site – an open plain with pad­docks and no de­vel­op­ment like the Toowoomba by­pass site.”

He has been work­ing with Rod McKelvey to lobby can­di­dates for a com­mit­ment to sup­port this al­ter­na­tive op­tion as cam­paign­ing heats up for the loom­ing state and fed­eral elec­tions.

“We’re talk­ing to all the can­di­dates, seek­ing a com­mit­ment to sup­port this al­ter­na­tive prior to the elec­tions and, if it is in­deed a fund­ing is­sue for govern­ment, a com­mit­ment to in­creas­ing this in the fu­ture.

“They’re not mak­ing firm com­mit­ments but they are lis­ten­ing to us and ask­ing tech­ni­cal ques­tions.

“In my view it looks like the RMS has been asked to come up with a low-cost de­sign op­tion, and this is in­con­sis­tent with the com­mu­nity’s ex­pec­ta­tion of tun­nels.”

This view is sup­ported by Coffs Har­bour Mayor Denise Knight who refers to it as an ‘el cheapo’ by­pass. She is one of three coun­cil­lors who’ve formed a work­ing group to call for the re­in­state­ment of tun­nels. The cur­rent pro­posal, which in­cludes cut­tings up to 350 me­tres wide and 60 me­tres deep, is not all bad, ac­cord­ing to Mr Mur­ray.

“Where you’ve got the viaduct over the rail­way line – that could have been pro­moted more. You can’t fill that in be­cause there’s a rail­way line there, but just be­cause there’s no rail­way line in other val­leys and low spots, doesn’t mean you should just fill them in.”

Mr Mur­ray is well aware of the ex­tra costs as­so­ci­ated with the op­er­a­tion and main­te­nance of tun­nels but be­lieves the es­ti­mates have been in­flated in the at­tempt to sell the cur­rent con­cept.

The de­sign has been costed at around $1.39 bil­lion which is com­pa­ra­ble to the cur­rent con­cept de­sign es­ti­mate of around $1.3 bil­lion.

An artist's im­pres­sion of a viaduct sim­i­lar to that which could be used to tra­verse farm­land and gul­lies west of Coffs Har­bour.

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