At long last it seems the Glendale interchange may really be on the way.
After years of vacillation from federal politicians, the Gillard government has come up with $7million to kick off the vital roadworks that are required to underpin the interchange and all that will accompany it.
That money is in addition to a state government commitment of $15million and a $10million allocation by Lake Macquarie City Council itself.
All of that is enough to make a fair start on the roadwork preliminaries, but more will be needed to actually complete the links to make it all work.
The principle of the staged project is simple enough. First, connect Cardiff and Glendale – and perhaps Speers Point – with new road bridges over the dividing rail line.
Next, build a new railway station and bus interchange, creating a state-of-the art transport hub in the geographical heart of the Newcastle-Lake Macquarie urban agglomeration.
Then, watch as private interests flock to take advantage of the opportunities created by these public works.
It isn’t hard to foresee the possible scale of transformation.
Some estimates suggest the relatively small investment in roadworks and bridges the interchange could unlock at least $600million in commercial, industrial and retail development, with all the jobs and economic benefits that entails.
Last year 11 Hunter councils told the government, with near-miraculous unanimity, that they all rated the Glendale interchange their top choice for $25million in regional infrastructure funding.
Hopes were crushed, however, when the government slashed the maximum it was prepared to commit under its regional development fund grants to $12.5 million.
After that disappointment the latest announcement is a partial relief.
It means work can start in earnest on the Hunter transport project rated top of the priority list by many of the region’s leaders.
The twofold task is now to ensure no budget blowouts on the preliminary work and to redouble efforts to obtain the remaining funds necessary to complete stage one of this vital regional project.
COMPARING the March quarterly statistics on treatment times in Hunter hospitals to those from December shows the region still lagging behind the rest of the state.
The gap has narrowed considerably, but it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that this may be due to seasonal variation in demand on emergency departments.
Emergency departments in under-resourced hospitals might manage to approach performance benchmarks during some periods, but then fall rapidly behind when demand intensifies. When the December figures were released earlier this year, the Bureau of Health Information noted that was traditionally the busiest time of year for emergency rooms.
Whatever the season, the message from the statistics appears to be the same: Hunter hospitals need more resources.