The NSW government will spend about $400 million over the next four years to upgrade the Princes Highway between Berry and Bomaderry – bringing what was a planned, yet unfunded road project to life.
The construction cash forms part of a four-year government spend of more than $789 million on the Princes Highway, to be revealed in Tuesday’s budget.
Major work on the 10.5-kilometre Berry to Bomaderry upgrade should begin early next year, ahead of a 2021 completion date.
Detailed designs for the project were revealed earlier this year, but the Illawarra’s parliamentary secretary Gareth Ward said until now there had been “no guarantee of funding”.
“That’s now guaranteed,” Mr Ward said. “We’re announcing that we’ll be progressing to calling for tenders and moving ahead.
“The fact that we’re opening expressions of interest shows we’re serious.”
The exact amount to be spent on the Berry to Bomaderry project over the next four years hasn’t been revealed, but the Mercury understands the figure is about $400 million.
The government allocated $18 million to ongoing planning for the highway upgrade – which would provide a four-lane highway between Mullers Lane at Berry and Cambewarra Road, Bomaderry – in last year’s budget.
Elsewhere, a portion of the $789 million will go towards continued work on the long-awaited Albion Park Rail bypass. Mr Ward has vowed the government “can do both projects at once”.
The budget will set aside $17.5 million in 2017-18 to continue Albion Park Rail bypass planning and pre-construction work – ahead of construction starting next financial year.
“This budget will leave the residents of Albion Park and surrounds in no doubt that the project is absolutely going to happen and, as promised, it will start in this term [of government],” Mr Ward said.
About $137 million will be spent on Princes Highway upgrades in 2017-18, with cash to complete the new Burrill Lake bridge, progress the Dignams Creek upgrade and plan new bridges at Nowra and Batemans Bay.
The majority of those projects received money in last year’s budget.
Elsewhere, more money will be spent on progressing the Bulli Hospital redevelopment ($20.9m) and M1 Princes Motorway improvement works between Bulli Tops and Picton Road ($5m).
Budget to deliver ‘biggest Illawarra cash splash ever’
The Illawarra’s parliamentary secretary, Gareth Ward, has labelled this year’s NSW budget the biggest the region has seen when it comes to state government spending.
“We’ve never seen money like this before, ever,” Mr Ward told the Mercury.
The record-spend label will come under the scrutiny of the region’s Labor MPs when the 2017-18 budget is handed down on Tuesday.
Among those watching closely will be Keira MP – and NSW Opposition treasury spokesman – Ryan Park, who said the community would judge the government on actions rather than words.
“This budget will be a little bit like the Liberal Party itself – big on promises, very small on reality,” Mr Park said.
“This is a government that talks up a lot, delivers very little and I expect the same tomorrow [Tuesday].”
Wollongong MP Paul Scully hoped this year’s budget would see a “reversal of the government’s trend of ignoring the Illawarra”.
“For too long budgets have come and gone with the Illawarra receiving very little from this government and its Liberal ... predecessors,” Mr Scully said.
Lifts at the Unanderra train station and the WIN Entertainment Centre upgrade were among the Labor MP’s budget essentials.
“I think people will be frustrated if they see a whopping great big surplus, which is rumoured, while smaller local infrastructure projects in Wollongong continue to be ignored,” he said.