The state and federal government’s failure to fund the southern extension of the Tonkin Highway was a ‘tragedy’ according to Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale president Keith Ellis.
His comments came after a state Labor tour of the shire’s top priority projects last week, which included the Tonkin Highway extension.
Mr Ellis said the project was a stalemate with neither state nor federal governments willing to commit to funding.
In April WA Transport Minister Dean Nalder said the project would not be a state priority until it could attract federal funding but the late member for Canning Don Randall said the federal government couldn’t examine the project until the state made it a priority.
Mr Ellis said in the meantime increasing congestion was putting pressure on local roads.
“We have these black spots at the Nicholson and Thomas road intersection and we have people getting smashed up every week,” he said.
Mr Ellis said after more than a decade of lobbying for the extension he was disappointed to see the lack of progress.
“When I first got the shire president job (in 2013) I got a letter from (then Transport Minister) Troy Buswell saying the Tonkin Highway would be built in 2017,” he said.
“Last time we spoke to Dean Nalder he was saying 2031. It will cost about $240 million to do it properly but no one seems to have the money for it.”
Mr Nalder said there was an opportunity for the state to submit projects for consideration as part of the 2016-17 budget. He refused to confirm where the project stood in terms of its priority to the state as well as why the state government had failed to seek out federal funding sooner.
State opposition leader Mark McGowan said the Tonkin Highway needed to be a high priority.
“In my recent visits in the area I can say there is no doubt that the extension will do a lot to ease congestion on other roads and provide a better link to the overall transport network,” he said.
“It’s completely unacceptable that the state’s transport minister doesn’t understand that he is the person that helps decide what projects attract federal funding.”