Albion Park residents will be able to avoid congested Tongarra Road potentially by 2027, with NSW Labor committing to fund the Tripoli Way extension if elected in the upcoming election.
If elected, NSW Labor would provide the $16 million requested by Shellharbour City Council to fund the project to link Terry Street with the Illawarra highway at Broughton Avenue via what is now Tripoli Way and The Expressway, plus an additional $4m to cover inflation and increased prices since when the project cost was last estimated.
The Albion Park bypass - distinct from the Albion Park Rail bypass - has been planned by Shellharbour Council since 1961, and was estimated in 2020 to cost over $35 million.
With the development of suburbs such as Tullimbar and Calderwood, as well as the growth of Albion Park further south, Tongarra Road has become a traffic sewer, with frequent congestion.
In the past decade, an additional 6000 people have made Albion Park their home, contributing to the 15,000 cars that drive through the Albion Park village intersection each day.
Transport for NSW estimates 8500 cars leave the Albion ParkRail Bypass at the Terry Street/Illawarra Highway off-ramp and 9500 cars join the freeway at this point.
This has been exacerbated by, at times, the closure of Terry Street where it joins the Albion Park Rail Bypass and Tongarra Road under the bypass due to flooding.
Katelin McInerney, NSW Labor candidate for Kiama said the long-awaited project was a hot topic in the electorate.
"I have spoken to thousands of Albion Park residents who have consistently asked me to deliver this long overdue project," she said.
Ms McInerney said planning and infrastructure delivery in the region had been misaligned, with thousands of families moving into the area without adequate roads, schools and community facilities.
"Calderwood was put in without a school, a GP clinic, we're still waiting for the new shopping centre to come online," she said. "There's been a complete lack of investment in the vital infrastructure needed to really make sure it's a community, not just whacking more houses up."
There's been a complete lack of investment in the vital infrastructure needed.- Katelin McInerney - Labor candidate for Kiama
Traffic modelling completed by Cardno for Shellharbour council expects a further 30 per cent increase in traffic between 2026 and 2041 and that the road network would reach gridlock without the Tripoli Way extension.
In January, Member for Kiama Gareth Ward and Shellharbour Deputy Mayor Kellie Marsh wrote to the NSW government asking the $16 million to be allocated to the project from the government's $300m Accelerating Infrastructure Fund.
A decision on what projects will be successful in this fund is expected on March 3, before the government enters caretaker mode for the election.
"I've made representations to the Premier on this issue, and when it comes to getting things done and delivering, I'll happily stick my record up against anyone else's any day of the week," Mr Ward said.
Ms McInerney said these actions were not good enough.
"The number one issue here is infrastructure and congestion, and how hard things are getting to work, to school, to see doctors and meet caring responsibilities. The current member has been in power for 12 long years, a large proportion of that time as a minister in the government, and he's not been able to deliver this project."
NSW Labor would directly fund the project as capital expenditure and, if construction begins in 2025, expect the road to be completed by 2027.
On Tuesday, Shellharbour council agreed to sell a portion of Allens Lane in Shellharbour Village for $700,000, with the funds to be earmarked for the Tripoli Way extension.
In 2020, Shellharbour council received $4.2 million from the NSW government for planning to develop the project.
Last year Calderwood residents raised concerns that the Illawarra Highway was dangerous for cyclists, and the road lacked a footpath to enable walking to Albion Park Public School.
Ms McInerney said Labor was "looking into" active transport links as part of the road project.
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