DELAYS: Coffs Harbour Mayor Denise Knight is concerned the plan for tunnels (indicated on the map in yellow) will be abandoned.
DELAYS: Coffs Harbour Mayor Denise Knight is concerned the plan for tunnels (indicated on the map in yellow) will be abandoned.

RMS tight lipped on bypass progress

COFFS Harbour Mayor Denise Knight would be 'very disappointed' if the plans for tunnels along the Coffs Harbour bypass were abandoned.

She is also concerned that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has not yet been released and raised the possibility that delaying tactics are being employed.

The delays have led some in the community to question the proposed 2020 start date and this week the Advocate put this to the Roads and Maritime Service (RMS) who, after considering it for almost two days refused to respond, with a media officer writing:

"It doesn't look like I can give you any more information on the bypass at this time. If this changes, I will let you know."

Three tunnels were proposed along the Coffs Harbour bypass: one at Roberts Hill Ridge, another to the north of Shephards Lane and the third at Gately's Road.

The alternative to these tunnels would most likely be cuttings through the steep mountainside west of Coffs Harbour. Last week the RMS refused to rule this out as an option.

"A final decision has not yet been made on whether the new highway crosses major ridge lines through cuttings or tunnels."

This response has raised alarm bells for Cr Knight.

"If they're not saying either way, it does makes you think they are going to do cuttings. I would be very disappointed if we're not getting tunnels because that would tell me we are getting a cheap bypass."

Fellow councillor Sally Townley is also concerned the Coffs bypass will be done 'on the cheap' and has foreshadowed the impact if the tunnels are abandoned.

"Huge open rock faces will be seen from most of Coffs Harbour's western suburbs and the highway noise will rebound over West Coffs. This could be disastrous for our community. We have waited so long for this bypass, Coffs Harbour deserves the best, not the cheapest".

An EIS was commissioned back in 2016 but it still hasn't been released and Cr Knight is concerned that there are delaying tactics going on.

"In fact, some information that came to me six months ago was that the EIS was started and almost completed so are we talking stalling tactics here?" she asked.

At one point the RMS were due to give a presentation to council on bypass progress but that was postponed due to Pacific Highway Manager Bob Higgins' retirement although he was on deck until Friday. A farewell celebration was held for him in Grafton.

"I would really like it to start in 2020 - sooner if we can, but as long as we have it done properly and haven't taken the cheap skate way out," Cr Knight said.