Another chapter was added to the Singleton Bypass narrative at the Civic Centre this afternoon as local media, council members and business owners caught an exclusive glimpse of the project's updated plans.
Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen invited Anna Zycki (Transport of NSW - Hunter regional director) to present a visual presentation of the long awaited updates before the official plan was released to the public online at 1pm (click here to view).
Yet the project itself will remain years in the making due to a lengthy submission period as well as the determination of REF (Review of Environmental Factors) in 2020.
That's not to mention the obvious in required government funding while our friends in Scone near the completion of their impressive new infrastructure.
"We have a great visual and you can see how the bridge actually works," Zycki told the Singleton Argus prior to the presentation.
"The biggest thing about the whole route was that we've significantly reduced the land grab so for the greater majority of property owners through there so there is now less impact for them.
"But we need to make sure that we get this right and have a determination from the REF by the middle of next year.
"Then we hope for the detailed design, which usually takes a few years, to go ahead if we get the full funding for the project."
The new concept sees changes to the intersections for Putty Road and Maison Dieu Road as well as the shortening of the initial bridge (travelling over the Main Northern Railway, Doughboy Hollow and Hunter River floodplains) from 3.1km to 1.7km.
Interestingly, the Putty Road intersection will only allow Bypass traffic from the north to access town while residents south of the town hoping for direct access to John Street will still be required to travel through the New England Highway.
"We have managed to make improvements at two intersections (since the 2016 draft release)," she continued.
"At Putty Road we've made changes from previous considerations in regards to traffic coming from the north.
"We've looked at the numbers of traffic wanting to head south, they are less than 1,000 per day.
"Meanwhile there are 6-7,000 that wish to head north on a daily basis (which will be catered for)."
The swift presentation was followed by an hour long question-and-answer forum as emotions continued to run high in the room.
Subjects of concern included:
- The affect for John Street retailers
- Lack of communication by Transport NSW (as well as Mr Johnsen)
- Federal and State Government funding
- The submission process (inquired by Mayor Sue Moore)
- Future of the new retirement village for Maison Dieu
- Roundabout vs. Traffic lights for Maison Dieu intersection
- Noise complaints
- Resistance to flooding
- The position of the project's completion in comparison to the neighbouring bypasses in Muswellbrook and Scone
Ultimately, the main question was raised in relation to the significance (or lack of) that the project has in downgrading the dangerous stretch of the New England Highway in the Whittingham area.
"I know for a fact that you Anna Zycki said that there hasn't been enough deaths on that stretch of road," an emotional Chris Bennett (Whittingham resident) declared.
"Well we've had 13 in 13 years including a good friend and employee of mine this year."
She responded to the Singleton Argus later in the afternoon.
"I absolutely understand his concerns and I would say that I absolutely would never say that 'there hasn't been enough deaths' because one death is too many," she explained.
"The bypass route itself is intended to be a 100km route but separately to that we are looking at speed limit reviews for that section of the New England highway through Whittingham.
"That process is almost complete so I'm hoping in the next month or two to be able to provide information around that."
Six information sessions are being held for the public at the Quest Hotel, Singleton:
- Thursday January 30, 2020, 10.30am-1.30pm and 4pm-7pm
- Thursday February 6, 2020, 10.30am-1.30pm and 4pm-7pm
- Tuesday February 11, 2020, 10.30am-1.30pm and 4pm-7pm
The community can comment on the REF and concept design at any of the information sessions, via the interactive portal at rms.work/singleton or by contacting the project team on 1800 991 254 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submissions close at 5pm on Sunday, March 1 2020.