IT was hard hats and reflective vests all round yesterday as state and federal Labor politicians marked construction of the $1.65-billion Hunter Expressway.
Federal infrastructure and transport minister Anthony Albanese joined Premier Kristina Keneally at Buchanan for the first sod being turned to begin work on the 13-kilometre eastern section of the road.
At their side were Cessnock state MP Kerry Hickey, Hunter federal MP Joel Fitzgibbon and federal candidate for Paterson Jim Arneman.
The highway will run from Branxton to Seahampton with interchanges at Buchanan, Kurri Kurri, Loxford, Allendale and Branxton, and is due for completion in late 2013.
Mr Fitzgibbon said it would support the region's growing population and industries.
Former "F3 Link or Sink" group campaigner Toby Thomas said yesterday's event followed a long community campaign.
"Now at last it's a physical reality," he said.
"We've got work starting, it's very exciting."
He said the Kurri Kurri community was looking at ways to capitalise on the expressway, and how to address the increase in traffic the expressway was expected to add to nearby roads.