The government would be “short-sighted” not to include a northern interchange in the Albion Park Rail Bypass – but only when it’s needed.
That’s the view of the NRMA’s executive general manager of corporate affairs Peter Colacino.
Mr Colacino was in the Illawarra on Friday for a meeting with members to hear about their concerns regarding roads and transport.
Last month the Mercury broke the news that the interchange may not be built at the same time as the bypass.
This would mean Dapto residents travelling south would not be able to get onto the bypass and would have to use the existing Princes Highway.
Roads and Maritime Services has said traffic modelling suggests the interchange was not required until traffic volumes increased.
Its construction would also depend on the overall cost of the project.
Mr Colacino said the interchange made sense given the expected increase in population in the area.
“An extra 20,000 homes in West Dapto with 50,000 residents, it’d be short-sighted not to have a connection to a community that is that large,” he said.
The timing would be critical, he said, to ensure the interchange was in place ahead of any increase in demand.
“Clearly having the right sort of connection to meet demand is going to be a priority,” Mr Colacino said.
“So with the bypass we need to make sure we have the interchange and make sure that there is one available when the demand’s going to be there.”
If the interchange was needed sooner rather than later, he said “from a cost perspective” it would make sense to build it at the same time as the rest of the bypass.
“The key for us is we can see now there is going to be demand for the interchange at some point in time,” Mr Colacino said.
“We need to see the data so we can understand exactly what he right time is.
“Based on the housing developments that are planned for the region, you’d have to think it would be some time soon.”
Regarding the inevitabilty of a toll on SouthConnex – aka the F6 extension – Mr Colacino said paying for such a road would be a choice between higher taxes or tolls.
However, he expected any toll on the long-awaited road would not be exorbitant.
“We’re certainly concerned about making sure tolls are fair and equitable,” he said.
“A road shouldn’t be delivered with a toll at any price, it needs to be something that’s affordable and provides a real point for people who need a faster journey.
“What’s important is that any discussion about tolls considers what other funding opportunities might be.”