A review of the existing Albion Park Rail bypass corridor established in the mid-1990s has found the corridor remains a suitable location to complete "the missing link" in the M1 Princes Motorway/A1 Princes Highway network.
Kiama MP Gareth Ward said the review was critical to progressing the project, and was part of the $1.1 million allocated for investigations and planning of the long-awaited bypass.
"Now that the bypass corridor has been confirmed, Roads and Maritime will commence detailed planning," Mr Ward said.
"The next steps include survey, geotechnical and hydrological investigations into the bypass and the concept design, investigating opportunities to shorten the route and implementing a community engagement process."
Using the existing corridor, the highway would divert west of the existing highway at Yallah behind the businesses on Yallah Road, before following a section of the Illawarra Highway around the Illawarra Regional Airport.
The corridor then heads south, crossing Tongarra Road west of Frazers Creek and Ravensthorpe before hooking around the Croom Regional Sporting Complex running along the East West Link and rejoining the existing highway in the vicinity of the Oak Flats interchange.
Mr Ward said the existing corridor had been included in Wollongong and Shellharbour council's local environmental plans.
He said the review was needed to compare the existing road corridor, which was largely on undeveloped land, against current road design standards and took into account development around the corridor over the past 17 years.
"It also examined potential community and social impacts, environmental constraints, cost and affordability, urban planning and included a detailed traffic analysis," Mr Ward said.
The review found that, when designed to current standards, the bypass would largely fit within the existing road corridor except for a small section around the Croom Regional Sporting Complex.
Although the bypass would actually be three kilometres longer than the present route, the review found construction of the bypass would reduce travel times for through and local traffic in both directions and improve the reliability of journey times, especially during holiday periods.
"It would improve road safety and remove the only traffic lights on the route between Heathcote and Bomaderry," Mr Ward said.
"It would also reduce the frequency of flooding and need for lengthy diversions.
"Roads and Maritime has also carried out Aboriginal cultural heritage site inspections on properties in the road corridor as well as traffic modelling, travel time surveys and a review of environmental constraints.
"The community will have an opportunity to talk to and provide feedback to the project team about the report and next steps early next year," Mr Ward said.
It was necessary to complete this work so the NSW government could consider funding and scheduling options to deliver a solution to the traffic issues in the area in the future.
"I know people don't like studies but when you build a roadway that is going to cost several hundred million dollars you need to ensure you get it right," he said.
Earlier this year Shellharbour City Council applied for $350 million for the upgrade through the Restart NSW Illawarra Infrastructure Fund, giving an idea of how much the council thinks the project will cost.
However with just $100 million on offer through the fund, the project did not make the short list because the independent assessment panel concluded the amount was outside the capacity of the program.
When the Berry bypass is completed in 2018, Albion Park Rail will be the only centre between Heathcote and Bomaderry not to be bypassed.