Roads and Maritime Services doesn’t know when work on the desperately needed final stage of the Newcastle Inner City bypass will start.
It’s a far cry from when former Premier Mike Baird announced in June 2014 that he was bringing forward the then 2017 target date for the start of construction on the 3.4 kilometre Rankin Park to Jesmond link.
Almost five years on and the $280 million project appears to be on the road to nowhere as engineers, bureaucrats and politicians continue to haggle over details.
But another project of similar regional importance, the duplication of Nelson Bay Road between Williamtown and Bob’s Farm, seems to have been fast-tracked with an eye to wooing voters in the key electorate of Port Stephens.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian committed to the 11 kilometre duplication project during a flying visit to the seat on Tuesday.
“The best advice I have from RMS is they can start the work this year and it will take about two years to complete,” Ms Berejiklian said on Tuesday.
The announcement left Labor’s Sonia Hornery, who holds the seat of Wallsend with a 20.8 per cent margin, shaking her head.
“The Government announced Stage 5 of the bypass in 2014 with much fanfare. Every man and his dog got an invite to the announcement,” Ms Hornery said.
“Despite all the promises and back slapping over the project, nothing has happened.”
The state’s peak motoring organisation, the NRMA, said the Newcastle community was justified in its expectation that work on the final stage of the bypass would now be underway.
“We are a bipartisan organisation. We are pleased that Nelson Bay Road is going to be duplicated but the bypass is an equally significant project,” NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury said
“It needs to be built regardless of the election cycle. Let’s just get on with it.”
The Newcastle Herald reported last month that the Department of Planning had requested more information about potential construction impacts of the project, sparking concerns that the time frame for construction could be blown out to 2020 or beyond.
A Department of Planning spokesman said the project was expected to be determined early this year.
A Roads and Maritime Services spokeswoman said this week that a number of design refinements had been made to the project including the additional ramps at John Hunter Hospital in response to community feedback.
A contract for the detailed design and contract documentation for a new shared path bridge over Newcastle Road has also been awarded to Aurecon Australasia.
But despite $14.5 million being allocated in last year’s state budget for planning and “pre-construction” RMS is still unable to say when construction will start.
In response to a Herald question about when construction was expected to start, an RMS spokeswoman said: “The start of construction for the early works package and main bypass works will be dependent on planning approval.”
A spokeswoman for Roads Minister Melinda Pavey endorsed the department’s response.