The ongoing upgrade of the Princes Highway in the southern Illawarra was the region’s biggest winner in this year’s budget, with about $170 million to be committed for projects between Albion Park Rail and the Shoalhaven.
The upgrade of Mount Ousley also received further funding, with $2 million delivered in 2014/15 for planning new heavy vehicle climbing lanes, and $500,000 for an interchange at the base of the road.
Illawarra road commuters could benefit from an extra $10 million from the Restart NSW fund, which will be used to advance a feasibility study for the Princes Motorway (F6) between Loftus and St Peters.
Kiama MP Gareth Ward was one of a number of Liberal MPs who petitioned the government to get moving on the F6.
‘‘I’m very excited to see the government has finally delivered on a feasibility study for the F6 extension out of Sydney,’’ Mr Ward said.
While he admitted a feasibility study was no guarantee the road would be built, Mr Ward said he would continue to fight for it.
‘‘My position on the F6 is well known,’’ he said.
‘‘It is a visionary project for the region that would open up the Illawarra. Obviously it’s not in my electorate but it would benefit my electorate. It would benefit the whole region and I’ll continue to argue for it.’’
The NRMA had spent years campaigning for the extension and deputy president Michael Tynan was pleased to see some action.
“Our Members in southern Sydney and the Illawarra have waited too long for successive governments to take a serious look at how to solve the congestion choking our local community – today’s announcement is a tribute to their hard work and persistence,” Mr Tynan said.
“This first stage of planning for the F6 Extension is critical in ensuring we get the right solution to improving people’s journey and making it easier for local businesses to deliver goods and services.’’
Illawarra Business Chamber CEO Debra Murphy praised the first step in bringing what she said would be a boost for the region.
‘‘The delivery of the F6 extension will be a major win for the Illawarra, reducing travel times to around 55 minutes between Sydney and the Illawarra resulting in significant economic benefits for the region,’’ Ms Murphy said.
‘‘Businesses and the broader community are calling out for improved connectivity to Sydney, and it is pleasing to finally see a real funding commitment to advancing this project.’’
Also in the budget are new bus routes, including one that will benefit University of Wollongong students in the Dapto area.
As part of a $91 million boost to the state’s bus network, the Illawarra will receive two new bus routes.
Route 52 will run from Flinders to Shell Cove and Route 41U will run commuters between Dapto and the University of Wollongong.
A Transport for NSW spokesman said both services would be run by Premier Illawarra and will start carrying passengers in early 2015 after the new buses are delivered.
The spokesman said the two routes passed a stringent selection process.
‘‘New routes are subject to a rigorous assessment process which sees bus planning experts look at customer demand and travel patterns, new facilities in the area and existing transport links,’’ the spokesman said.
Shellharbour MP Anna Watson welcomed the two new routes but it only served to highlight the need for a free shuttle bus for the southern suburbs.
‘‘While I certainly welcome the additional bus routes, it only adds to the need for the state government to build on the public transport option for the growing suburbs in my electorate,’’ Ms Watson said.
‘‘I have been calling on the State Government to conduct a feasibility study for the introduction of a free shuttle bus to operate in the Shellharbour City area.
‘‘The new bus routes clearly indicate there is a need for more public transport options for the people of Shellharbour.’’
However, despite strong calls from business and community leader for upgrades to the South Coast train line and Unanderra station, the region’s rail services have once again missed out on any funding.