The NSW government has promised "early works" on the final stage of the Newcastle inner-city bypass will start this year after the long-overdue project passed a planning milestone.
The Department of Planning has approved an environmental impact statement on the missing link in the bypass, allowing Roads and Maritime Services to begin detailed design work.
The government committed $280 million to the project in 2014 and issued a first iteration of the EIS in 2016. Former premier Mike Baird vowed in 2014 to bring forward the start date to 2017.
But planning progress slowed when the Department of Health pushed for better connections to John Hunter Hospital and cyclists complained about having to negotiate three sets of traffic lights to cross the new road.
The Department of Planning has also encountered delays in acquiring properties along the bypass route, though parliamentary secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald said on Thursday that he had been told this issue had been largely resolved.
The government has been under pressure from Hunter business groups, MPs and the community over delays in delivering key road projects such as the inner-city, Singleton and Muswellbrook bypasses and the duplication of Nelson Bay Road.
Asked whether the public trusted the government's pre-election pledges on infrastructure, Mr MacDonald acknowledged there was a "degree of questioning out there in the community".
But he pointed to the start of work on Maitland Hospital and the opening of Newcastle's light rail line as examples of the government following through on its promises.
"Look at what we do. We take time to do it, we have to find the money to do it, but we deliver on what we say.
"If we had rushed this, one thing I'm certain of is we wouldn't have had the second access into John Hunter Hospital. By taking a little bit of extra time, I think we've got a better project.
"We're not in a position to short-cut planning processes … or the community consultation. We certainly get the grief when we do take short-cuts. I think every major project now faces these considerable delays, whether it be hospitals or these major road works.
"The community has expectations now that you have an extensive environmental process and extensive community consultation process where their feedback is taken seriously.
"I guess I'd ask the community, thank you for your patience, it is a complex process, and we've got enabling works starting at the end of this year."
The project includes a flyover replacing the roundabout on Newcastle Road at Jesmond.
RMS regional director Anna Zycki said on Thursday that work on cycleway connections "should be starting hopefully later this year".