Wagga MP Daryl Maguire has hit back at implications the state government would block a preferred bike trail, connecting Wagga to Forest Hill.
It comes ahead of Monday’s ordinary council meeting, with a decision set to be reached over the five major routes of Wagga’s $11 million Active Travel Plan.
According to council’s proposal, these main bike paths and additional links will make up a network of tracks spanning almost 50 kilometres before 2019.
One of these routes – the Forest Hill link – has generated controversy across the city with residents, like active cyclist and rail trail proponent Lisa Glastonbury claiming it is not the most direct path.
The preferred track, according to 65 submissions and two independent surveys submitted to council, would use parts of the old rail corridor.
Despite objections, the city’s council staff recommended the track go ahead with the originally proposed southern alignment, that takes cyclists toward Lake Albert, before turning east.
According to the agenda for the June 9 meeting, it was believed state government approval to use the rail corridor would “not likely be forthcoming”.
“Implementation (of a route, using the rail corridor) would be subject to future state government approval and the sourcing of additional implementation funding,” it read.
“This approach may, in time, allow the construction of the preferred alignment.
“However, when this will occur and if additional funding will be forthcoming are unknown at this time.”
But Mr Maguire said the answer came down to time and money.
A self-described realist, he said the time it would take to gain approval for the use of the land could jeopardise the two-year construction deadline and additional costs could blow out the grant’s $11.9 million budget.
“Council sought my advise about using the rail corridor and I said I thought it would be difficult to close the line, because it takes an act of parliament,” Mr Maguire said.
“It can be difficult to negotiate in parliament with cross-benchers and others.”
He said past opposition from land owners, whose property hosted the old rail line, would also impact the project’s timeframe.
Mr Maguire said results of a feasibility study were still needed, with the project yet to be appropriately costed.
“Early figures showed it would cost $6 to $10 million, which would eat up the entire allotment allocated to connect the city,” he said.
“So there is more work to be done here.”
In addition, Mr Maguire said the time and cost constraints of the state government grant did not preclude use of the rail corridor in future plans and projects.
But he said his priority was to ensur the Active Travel Plan’s proposed bike paths would be completed within two years.
“You want everyone to be a winner,” he said. “We’re not there yet.”