How long is a piece of road?

By Paul Mullins
Sorry, I think it goes “How long does it take to build a piece of road?” Well, in the case of the new Orange – Molong Autobahn, too long according to Member for Orange Phil Donato.

Mr Donato is not impressed with answers to questions he put to Roads Minister Melinda Pavey in Parliament regarding progress with the $40 million project to straighten the “Guanna Hill Curves”, hitherto one of the worst stretches of highway between Sydney and Dubbo. Nor should he be. The Minister did little more than refer Mr Donato to the RMS website – which had none of the information known to just about anyone using the road regularly.

Former Roads Minister, Duncan Gay and former Member for Orange turned the first sod in April 2016. The project had an estimated 55 weeks completion – if all went smoothly. It started raining the afternoon of the sod turning – and didn’t stop. Remember the bogged grader – the site was a quagmire for weeks. Work could hardly start for ages.

Then, last year, work seemed to stop completely for weeks on end. We all remember this, as the 60 kph speed limit zones were replaced with 40 kph zones while no work was happening. Signs on the Mitchell Highway promise that the project will be completed by “early 2018”, but it’s well overdue. Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party Member for Orange, Philip Donato called-out Roads Minister Melinda Pavey for not delivering the project as promised.

“I believe that Minister Pavey thinks nobody will notice that this project is not completed on time and on budget – well not under my watch,” Mr Donato said.

“I was elected as Member for Orange to fight for a fair deal for this electorate, and that’s exactly what I’m here to do. If the Government doesn’t deliver, it’s my job to call them out on it. “This just goes to the heart of how the National Party in Government treats rural communities. They make big announcements with billion-dollar price tags, but when push comes to shove they don’t deliver. “Roads Minister Melinda Pavey refused to guarantee the project will be completed before the end of March 2018, or will be completed within budget, when I questioned her in Parliament earlier this year.

Anyway, last week, to his credit, Western NSW parliamentary secretary Rick Colless also explained that delays had occurred with compacting the roadbase.
Original base had failed compaction testing and “new type of material that meets the specifications” had to be brought in. “There were more issues than they expected with that [original] material.” Incorrect density can lead roads to crack prematurely.

Mr Donato is once more writing to Roads Minister Pavey to demand answers for the project not being completed as promised.

Why the Minister could not have provided the information now forthcoming from RMS and the Parliamentary Secretary in the first place is a mystery. Its not good to fob off opposition questions with “refer to the website” It is now hoped the entire works could be open well before the end of 2018, provided the weather remained dry.

Out at the site last week Mr Donato was asked if he would be invited to the opening. He was unsure.

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