| 10.01,12. 02:35 AM |
Speed camera turned back on for the Pacific Highway
January 10, 2012
A SPEED camera near the scene of the fatal Urunga crash will be reactivated after it was turned off last year by the state government during an audit.
Roads Minister Duncan Gay said the camera would now operate in "warning mode".
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This was despite police admitting the crash was not caused by speed.
Mr Gay also vowed the state and federal governments would work together to start work on the planned Urunga bypass - which could have avoided the crash - with construction hopefully beginning next year.
The speed camera taken offline was one of 38 removed because of controversy over revenue raising after an audit of the state's speed cameras six months ago.
Reactivating the camera in "warning mode' would mean motorists received warning notices but not fines. Mr Gay yesterday denied it was a "knee-jerk reaction".
He said an advisory group had recommended the reactivation of the camera - which is 800m from the accident site - prior to the crash. Flashing speed limit signs would also be installed to show that the speed limit in the area zone changed from 100km/h to 60km/h.
"We are determined, if we possibly can, to finish that highway by 2016," Mr Gay said.
The government was yesterday criticised by one of its own - Coffs Harbour MP Andrew Fraser - who said the much-needed Urunga bypass had been approved for construction six years ago.
"If you look at any of the towns along the north coast there are dozens which still have the Pacific Highway going straight through the middle of town, with houses within metres of the highway," he said.
"This incident highlights the fact that, not only are motorists in danger, but those people living on the Pacific Highway are in danger of being killed or maimed."
Construction has been delayed by a dispute between the the state and federal governments over whether there should be 50-50 funding of the planned road upgrades.
Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said an extra $6 billion was needed to complete the highway upgrade.
"What we've said is both governments need to do more - let's end the politics, let's have 50-50 funding," he said yesterday.
A dual carriageway running the length of the Pacific Highway has been promised in election campaigns for years.
Opposition roads spokesman Rob Furolo yesterday questioned whether there had been more serious accidents in areas where speed cameras had been taken out.
"They switched off 38 cameras across the state in order to secure a headline but in doing so they put public safety at risk," Mr Furolo said.
Resident Allan Phillips said he had lived alongside the Pacific Highway for nine years and was frustrated by empty promises about the construction of a bypass.
"We've got people dying on this road on a regular basis," he said.
"It's a highway and shouldn't be running through a small town, and you shouldn't have suburban activity on a highway."