The long-awaited M1 extension has been overlooked for a list of projects in line for fast-tracked federal funding, despite the NSW government including it as one of its two top regional infrastructure priorities.
Hunter Business Chamber has called the decision a missed opportunity.
Only one Hunter project - a previous $8.8 million election commitment to replace the Brig O'Johnston bridge at Clarence Town - made it onto the list of infrastructure spending the federal government has fast-tracked.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison's office released the list on Thursday, with funding coming from a $570 million pool earmarked for NSW.
"We're bringing forward these important projects to cut travel times and make roads safer while boosting jobs and the economy," Mr Morrison said in a statement.
Most of the money will be spent on three major projects - $200 million for upgrades to the Newell Highway, $185 million for the NSW section of road between Toowoomba and Seymour and $145 million for work on the Princes Highway corridor.
The M1 extension, often referred to as the missing link between Black Hill and the Pacific Highway at Raymond Terrace, which has been on the table for many years.
The federal government has pledged $1.6 billion to the $2 billion project, but forward estimates show that most of the money will not be spent until 2023 to 2028.
The Newcastle Herald reported last month that NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet listed the M1 extension as one four projects - two regional and two metro - that topped the Berejiklian government's wishlist for federal funding.
Nationals member for the federal seat of Lyne David Gillespie made an election promise in May for $8.8 million to replace the Brig O'Johnston bridge at Clarence Town.
Hunter Business Chamber CEO Bob Hawes said it was difficult to understand why the M1 extension had been overlooked, given it was recognised as a fast-track priority by the NSW government, NRMA and Infrastructure Australia.
He said the failure to expedite money for the link was a missed opportunity.
"The M1 project is critical for improving freight transport and traffic flow and will also enhance connections to our airport and port," Mr Hawes said.
"Similarly, funding towards the airport runway upgrade is another missed opportunity to support a project with significant flow-on benefits for the region.
"None of the project funding for NSW appears to be new, including the $8.8 million for the Brig O'Johnston bridge, which follows on from an election commitment.
"That is a much-needed project in Clarence Town that did not have a confirmed timeline, so it is hoped this confirmation of federal funding will allow Dungog council to move forward with planning and establish a definite schedule for the works."
Dungog mayor Cr Tracy Norman said the shire welcomed the Brig O'Johnston bridge funding, which would be added to a $5.5 million commitment from the NSW government.
"Clarence Town is our shire's growth hot-spot and the community have been waiting for over a decade for a solution to the upgrade of this vital piece of transport infrastructure," she said.
"Council is seeking a solution to build a fit-for-purpose two-lane traffic bridge and to potentially utilise the historic Brig O' Johnston bridge as a foot and cycle bridge. This outcome would provide an optimum solution for our residents, keeps this historically significant bridge in-situ and it would also save tax-payer money in bridge upgrades.
"We are not asking for any more money, all we need is an agreement on a way forward."
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