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Fixing country roads high on NSW agenda

Article PhotoRoad users in regional and rural NSW understand the frustrations and inadequacies of country roads.

The latest example of NSW Government's Fixing Country Roads program was completed when Minister for Roads and Freight Duncan Gay and Member for Dubbo Troy Grant this week opened the upgraded intersections on Derribong Street in Narromine.

This particular project comes at a good time for truck drivers in the area. The $850,000 project provides a heavy vehicle-specific route around the town.

Member for Dubbo Troy Grant explained that B-doubles and road trains can use the route instead of travelling through the heart of Narromine. He also mentioned that the town is an agricultural hub in central western NSW so there are many businesses that require efficient transport of grain, cotton and livestock in the surrounding area.

"Several years ago, in support of local and regional agriculture, Narromine Shire Council opened some of the town's roads to B-doubles and road trains," Mr Grant said.

"Due to the increase in the number of trucks, these roads have needed increased maintenance including the Derribong Street intersection with Alagalah Street and the intersection of Terangion and Alagalah streets."

Increasing road safety as well as freight access is a massive achievement as it will benefit both country communities and the economies that support them. The Narromine Shire Council is landscaping the area around the newly upgraded intersections to provide additional benefits to the town.

Mr Gay concluded by stating this particular project was a credit to the local community and wishes to highlight the multiple parties that made it possible.

"Local Member and Minister Troy Grant was instrumental in securing the NSW Government funding for this project. I would also like to congratulate Narromine Mayor Bill McAnnally and Narromine Council for their continuous effort," he said.

Assessment panel meeting

The completion of the Narromine upgrades coincides with a meeting of the assessment panel deciding the ongoing plan for the Fixing Country Roads program.

The government has set aside $37.5 million for the program in the 2014-15 State Budget and the process to decide what roads are next in line for upgrades has begun.

Acting Premier Andrew Stoner explained that the program complements the $209.5 million Bridges for the Bush program, which was introduced in 2011, has been a massive success for both motorists and the flourishing freight industry.

A large number of councils across the state have applied for funding, more than expected, but the government believes this is a positive step for NSW communities.

Minister Gay believes councils have worked well with local industries and communities to gauge what are necessary improvements in their area.

"That is why it's important Expressions of Interest (EOI) applications are thoroughly assessed and ranked," he said.

According to Mr Gay, each request will be evaluated on criteria such as improved Access and Productivity, Growth and Economic Benefits, Strategic Alignment and Partnership and Deliverability and Project Readiness.

Applications with extensive planning and environmental approvals will be assessed with priority as the government hopes to begin construction on these projects in the next financial year.

Minister for Local Government Paul Toole explained councils and communities will not have to wait long to find out when their plan will begin.

"The shortlisted projects will be announced as soon as the Assessment Panel has completed its task, which is expected to be in the coming weeks," he said.

"Successful Fixing Country Roads projects will be announced later this year."