BIG OCCASION: Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery, Roads Minister Duncan Gay, Port Stephens MP Craig Baumann, Charlestown MP Andrew Cornwell and Newcastle MP Tim Owen attend the unofficial opening of the Shortland-to-Sandgate bypass. Picture: Phil Hearne
THE Shortland-to-Sandgate bypass will be opened to traffic next Thursday and the Hunter Expressway will follow in March.
NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay made the announcements yesterday when he unveiled a plaque on the $143million project.
The 1.8-kilometre bypass will link Maitland Road at Hexham with the Jesmond roundabout and is designed to ease traffic congestion in the area.
Mr Gay said the roads would open to vehicles as soon as work on them was finished, even if the official opening of the Hunter Expressway had not been held.
‘‘As soon as the road is ready to be opened and the work has finished we will be getting it opened.’’ Mr Gay said the government wanted to start the final stage of the Newcastle Inner City Bypass – linking Jesmond with Rankin Park at Lookout Road – but it would first have to shake the money tree for about $20million. ‘‘Stage five will start as soon as we can find the funding to put in place the preparation work; it’s not an easy site and we will need to do a fair bit of geotech and planning to get through that section,’’ he said.
Mr Gay downplayed concerns, expressed in yesterday’s Newcastle Herald, that the Shortland-to-Sandgate bypass would simply move a traffic bottleneck from the Sandgate cemetery further along the busy route.
He urged commuters not to dwell on the new traffic light intersection or who was in charge when it was designed – which was the former Labor government.
Charlestown MP Andrew Cornwell said the bypass and expressway were the start of a world-class road network that would improve the Hunter’s road reputation.