NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell will this morning give a conditional promise to complete the $500 million stage two of the Princes Highway upgrades by 2018, in a speech to the region's business leaders.
Mr O'Farrell, who will give the opening address at Regional Development Australia's annual leaders' summit at the University of Wollongong, will tell the crowd his government plans to have the second phase of the project - which includes the crucial 11.6-kilometre Foxground and Berry bypass - finished in 2017-18.
"Half the nation's road freight and three-quarters of all interstate road freight journeys are on NSW roads and the Princes Highway is a key freight route," Mr O'Farrell said in a statement issued last night.
"Stage two of the Princes Highway upgrade, the Foxground and Berry bypass, is the most significant transport infrastructure investment on the South Coast."
However, he will also tell business leaders the project's completion will rest on the successful long-term lease of the Port Kembla and Port Botany ports.
"The money unlocked from the Port Kembla and Port Botany leases will enable the entire Foxground and Berry bypass, worth over $500 million, to be delivered under one major contract providing benefits to road users and the local community at the earliest opportunity," Mr O'Farrell said.
"I must stress that the completion of stage two ... by 2017-18 is contingent upon the completion of the ports transaction.
"If this does not occur, this essential road project will be delayed."
The announcement comes less than two months after the Premier refused to commit the state government to funding the Foxground and Berry bypass or the Berry to Bomaderry upgrade.
On a visit to inspect progress on the Gerringong sections of the highway upgrade in September, Mr O'Farrell said the government was "committed to getting on with the job", but that insufficient federal infrastructure funding to NSW was "going to make it harder".
Work on the $310 million first stage upgrade at Gerringong - covering 7.5 kilometres between Mount Pleasant and Toolijooa Road - is expected to be completed in the first half of 2015, weather permitting.
Final concept designs for the third stage - an 11.5-kilometre stretch between Berry and Bomaderry - are expected to be displayed for public comment mid next year, according to the Roads and Maritime Services website.
The NSW government has asked for federal government funding for stage three works, which it estimates could be completed by 2019 if the money is forthcoming.