A sod-turning on Monday marked the ceremonial start to a project that will bypass the only sets of traffic lights between Heathcote and Bomaderry.
That project is the long-awaited Albion Park Rail Bypass.
While preliminary work, such as the relocation of the sportsfields at Croome Road Sporting Complex, began a year ago, the construction of the $630 million bypass itself is now officially under way.
“You don’t get too many days like this,” Parliamentary Secretary for the Illawarra Gareth Ward said.
“$630 million is a lot of money but it’s certainly something the community has been wanting for far too long and I’m really pleased that we’re starting major works here today.
“This section of the Princes Highway is notorious for congestion, not just at holiday time, but just about any time of the day.
“For the community this is a great win.”
Fulton Hogan will be constructing the bypass, which will include 13 bridges and require about a million cubic metres of earthworks.
Some of that fill will come from within the construction site as soils removed from one location will be used elsewhere on the bypass.
A lot of this fill will come from massive hill located on the East West Link, just to the west of the Oak Flats interchange.
The six lanes of the bypass will cut through that hill, bringing it almost to the same level as the East West Link.
The internal use of excavated material plus the presence of several quarries nearby means motorists won't see hundreds of trucks on local roads hauling soil in and out of the construction site.
Mr Ward said the bypass was four years away, but didn’t rule out an early finish date.
“This work will be finished by the back end of 2022, although Fulton Hogan have got a stellar record when it comes to delivering infrastructure,” he said.
“They delivered the Berry Bypass a year ahead of schedule.”
Roads and Maritime Services project manager Adrian Rouse said the bypass construction would be a largely greenfield site, meaning there would only be limited impact on road users in the area.
Mr Rouse said the bypass would deliver a three-minute time savings, and added it would also bring a smoother flow of traffic along the Princes Highway.
“We expect about 65 per cent of the traffic to transfer onto the new alignment,” Mr Rouse said.
“That will make a significant difference to the congestion on the existing highway. We expect that to operate uncongested after the project is opened.”