Constructing the F6 extension is a “politically challenging project”, admitted Parliamentary Secretary for the Illawarra Gareth Ward.
The admission comes in the wake of the news that construction of the long-awaited road could mean either cutting through the Royal National Park or bulldozing almost 500 homes between Loftus and Waterfall.
Property acquisition would run to hundreds of millions of dollars, while an internal government report claimed Roads and Maritime Services believed it could acquire the 60 hectares needed for the road for around $40 million.
The documents state construction could begin as early as 2019 but the Mercury understands some in government believe that start date could be too ambitious.
If the extension went through the national park then the government would only need to acquire around 60 homes – at a cost of around $2 million per home.
Mr Ward has long been an advocate for the F6 extension, pushing for funding for the road in each budget.
“It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we’re considering options,” Mr Ward said of the national park versus home acquisition options.
“That’s why we’ve invested money into planning to look at the best options to progress this project.
We’re examining a number of options.”
He estimated the total cost of the road could be between $8-$10 billion and said seeing it through to completion would not be an easy job.
“This is a politically challenging project,” Mr Ward said.
“I could sit on my hands and not attract any flak but I took up what some people considered an impossible project – made worse by the Labor party, who sold off parts of the road corridor while in government.
“I want to make sure we push this project forward; as politically challenging as it is I am committed to it.”
Mr Ward also responded to people voicing opposition to sending the extension through the national park.
“I’d ask the people opposing that, are they going to talk to hundreds of home owners whose homes might need to be acquired?” Mr Ward asked.
“Are they going to pay the compensation that will eat into the project to acquire those homes? Had they thought about that for even half a second?”
This news comes after details of a Transport for NSW internal memo emerged that instructed officials not to compare the cost of the F6 extension to improving the South Coast rail line.
When the memo became public Mr Ward dismissed it as “absolute nonsense”.
“There has been no cabinet directive to prioritise road over rail,” Mr Ward said.