Work has officially started on the "missing link" of shared pathway at the end of the Fernleigh Track, which is set to create a 27km active transport route from Adamstown to Murrays Beach.
The $12 million Fernleigh Awabakal Shared Track will run from Belmont to Blacksmiths. It comprises two stages, the first being 1.6km of shared pathway parallel to the Pacific Highway, while the northern part from the Fernleigh Track to Hilda Street will include a wetland boardwalk taking in Belmont Lagoon.
"They're part of the same project but they're different in character," Lake Macquarie City Council deputy CEO Tony Farrell said.
"The southern sector is mainly in road reserve. We're able to use the highway corridor, and while it'll be a fantastic asset because it will be a much safer route, it doesn't have the excitement of the northern section which traverses some undeveloped areas. It will have fantastic views across Belmont Lagoon and adjacent bushland."
The track will also incorporate Aboriginal Dreamtime story art with collaboration from Bahtabah Local Aboriginal Land Council. The first stage is planned for completion by mid-2022, while the project is expected to be finished by September 2023.
Work on the southern section will take place 7am-6pm Monday-Friday, and 8am-1pm Saturdays, with the Pacific Highway to be cut to one lane southbound with a 40km/h speed limit.
Mr Farrell acknowledged this would cause inconvenience, but said it was necessary for the safety of workers.
The NSW Government has thrown $7.48 million into the project, with the remainder to be covered by council.
Parliamentary secretary for the Hunter Taylor Martin said it was an important piece of infrastructure.
"I might be a bit biased, I'm really looking forward to it being completed," he said. "I've cycled this road Newcastle to Caves Beach and back, and this part here near the airport is the scariest.
"Tourists and locals will be using this for decades to come and learning about the waterways and the history."
Mayor Kay Fraser said the project has been talked about for at least a decade and the end result will be an "iconic shared pathway".
"South of Belmont you can't really ride safely down to Murrays Beach, well now you'll be able to. We have so much population on this side of the highway so we need to have that missing link done," she said. "There's nowhere else in NSW that you can have a shared pathway of that size going near a beautiful lagoon.
"The Fernleigh Track is talked about around Australia and having this completed, people will be coming here in droves to experience it."
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