Tasmania's road funding fight

TASMANIA will fight for its ``fair share'' of an $80 billion roads cash splash to be unveiled in tonight's federal budget, but there's unlikely to be any new money promised for the Midland Highway upgrade.

The Coalition government is expected to confirm its $400 million pre-election commitment to improve the Midland Highway, starting with $40 million in 2014-15, when it hands down its first budget. 

This will be part of a $40 billion investment in roads over six years to be part paid for by an increase in the fuel excise. 

Treasurer Joe Hockey expects the states and the private sector to match the investment. 

While many Tasmanians are likely to feel the pain of a tough budget, the big road spend could lead to a windfall for the state of up to $1.6 billion if the money is distributed on a per capita basis. 

Premier Will Hodgman said yesterday he did not expect any more money than the already-promised $400 million over 10 years for the Midland Highway, but indicated there were plenty of other places the money could be spent. 

``There'll be tough decisions, but it's important that we increase our infrastructure capacity,'' Mr Hodgman said. 

``Tasmania's road network is in critical need of repair after many years of neglect.'' 

Mr Hodgman said the promised $400 million for the Midland Highway was significant. 

``The Midland Highway is in an appalling state, it's unsafe and it also handicaps our business sector,'' he said.

RACT chief executive Harvey Lennon said more details on the time frame for work and expenditure on the Midland Highway was needed. 

He said areas where motorists would be hit hardest by petrol price hikes should be targeted by any new road projects, naming Greens Beach Road and Scottsdale and Bridport roads as priorities. 

``If there's money spent on these roads, the extra excise is still a bitter pill to swallow but it makes it a bit more palatable,'' Mr Lennon said. 

Tasmanian Labor MHR Julie Collins said the Liberals' commitment on the Midland Highway was a $100 million cut on what was offered by the previous Labor government.

``If there's any new money - although it seems like it will be more reannouncements - I would expect Tasmania to get its fair share, which is 5 per cent,'' she said.


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