Michael Pascoe writes:

NSW is vying for another entry in the
annals of grossly deficient government by spending more on doing nothing about
the M5 tunnel pollution than it would
have cost to fix it. That’s quite an achievement,
even by the standards Sin City has come to expect after nearly 11 years of Carr/Dilemma.

According to an audit by a community group,
the NSW government has blown more than
$53 million on the smog-filled M5 through parliamentary inquiries,
independent reports, international fact-finding junkets, air quality monitoring
and some extra ventilation. The tunnel still stinks.

The SMH reports estimates in 2001 for the cost of filtering the air ranged from a low
of $8.5 million to $40 million. Premier Dilemma produced a $250 million figure
for filtration last month while advising citizens to just roll up their windows
and don’t breathe while in the tunnel. Well, no, he didn’t say not breathe, but
you get the idea.

The SMH reports the usual denials: “A spokesman for the minister
disputed the $50 million, saying it was made up of routine infrastructure and
maintenance expenses plus steps taken to meet community concerns. The RTA was
consistently evaluating the best way to improve air quality in the M5 East
tunnel, he said.”

Memo RTA: community concerns have not been
met. Typical of that concern:

A residents spokesman, Mark Curran, said
the RTA
was told by Japanese experts that filtration would be cheaper than the
ventilation system. ‘I think it’s a matter of pride,’ he said. ‘They
have come out so strongly when they believed it was unnecessary and
now that they have found that they have a real problem, how do they

What’s still to come is the possibility
of similar pollution in the Lane Cove tunnel – the RTA has refused to install
filtration there as well.