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Details on bridge upgrade program closer to election

Opposition will release details on $600m bridge renewal scheme closer to election; Albanese labels program an "unfunded con job"

By Brad Gardner | June 18, 2010

Details on how the Coalition will fund its proposed bridge renewal program will be released closer to the election, but it has vowed to begin the scheme next year.

Opposition spokesman on transport Warren Truss yesterday pledged $300 million over four years to repair decaying bridges. He says the money will be matched by local and state governments, creating a $600 million fund.

A spokesman for Truss says the fund will be established in the 2011-2012 financial year.

“The Bridge to Renewal Program will kick off the financial year following the election, if we win,” the spokesman says.

The money will come from the Nation Building Program (formerly known as AusLink). All the funds have been allocated to projects, meaning money will need to be diverted to meet Truss’ commitment.

“We will have more to say on funding later on,” the spokesman says.

Truss’ announcement was met with scorn by Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese, who claims it is “another unfunded con job from a political party that had twelve years to do something about this very issue and didn’t”.

Albanese says the program will only happen if states, territories and local governments cover half the costs.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has supported Truss’ proposal, saying it may help unlock productivity gains by allowing heavier trucks to travel on bridges.

The group says many drivers are forced to take alternative routes because councils do not have enough money to upgrade bridges to support trucks.

“It drives the heavy vehicle sector crazy,” Truss’ spokesman says of the situation.

Truss has also promised $300 million over 10 years to build 500 new rest areas, with money also coming from the Nation Building Program.

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