M1 “missing link” released amid fears of gridlock

THE state government has released new plans for the ‘‘missing link’’ extension of the M1 motorway to the Pacific Highway at the same time as the NRMA warns that traffic congestion in the Hunter could soon rival Sydney if governments don’t fund improvements to the region’s road network.
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On Wednesday the NRMA released its annual survey of the state’s worst roads, again identifying the Pacific Motorway as the Hunter’s most hated, the fifth year in a row it has received the dubious honour.

Newcastle motorists also identified Newcastle Road, Lookout Road, Minmi Road and Maitland Road as among the Hunter’s worst.

Stretches of the Pacific Highway rated poorly among the more than 7000 respondents who voted in the NRMA survey, and in the Hunter NRMA President Kyle Loades said the federal government to come to the table with funding for the Raymond Terrace bypass.

“The NRMA urges the n Government to fund the missing link between the M1 Pacific Motorway, south of John Renshaw Drive and the Raymond Terrace bypass,” he said.

It comes at the same time as the state roads and maritime service released an updated plan for the extension, part of a $200 million campaign promise made by roads minister Duncan Gay before this year’s state election.

Roads and Maritime have spent $3 million allocated in this year’s budget to revise the original plan for the bypass, with the new plan now including a more northern road alignment and including a bridge across the Hunter River floodplain to ‘‘minimise and avoid environmental impacts to protected wetlands’’.

The changes also include a new interchange at Tarro to improve traffic flow and connectivity, and changes to the Tomago Road interchange design to improve accessibility to and from Tomago Road.

Those changes include a new link road behind Tomago industrial area connecting to Old Punt Road and Tomago Road.

The route for the extension is already reserved in the Port Stephens Local Environmental Plan, and the council’s general manager Wayne Wallis welcomed the revised plan.

‘‘This is a project Council has been advocating for since initial planning and investigations began more than a decade ago because of the potential it has to drive economic development in Port Stephens,’’ he said.

‘‘One of the many advantages of Tomago, Heatherbrae and Raymond Terrace to prospective new industries is their proximity to major transport links, in particular air and road.’’

Mr Loades said a greater proportion of the fuel excise needed to be put back into the building and repair of roads.

“The Hunter is one of the population growth centres of the nation, yet earlier this year the NRMA found that local councils faced a combined $360 million backlog,” he said.

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