Committee for the Hunter, Wallsend MP want Newcastle Inner City Bypass extension fast-tracked to avoid ‘chaos’

By Max McKinney

Newcastle Herald, August 30 2019 

The John Hunter Health and Innovation precinct – a $780 million redevelopment – will be completed by 2026, Hunter New England Health announced in recent weeks.

The overhaul, which will involve years of construction, runs the chance of being undertaken at the same time as the bypass extension.

The Rankin Park to Jesmond road link includes a second access road to the hospital, which has been lauded as an answer to its dire peak-hour congestion problems.

The NSW government committed to the $280 million project in 2014.

Then Premier Mike Baird said construction would start in 2017, but it was only given a green light to proceed when an environmental impact statement was approved in February, and a timeline for the project is yet to announced.

Transport for NSW Hunter director Anna Zycki told the Newcastle Herald “construction and procurement of the main contract” was “subject to approval of a final business case”.

“The NSW government has provided $8.4 million this financial year to continue planning and preconstruction work,” she said.

“Transport for NSW has started work on the detailed design for the project, which includes design refinements at the northern and southern interchanges.

“We expect to provide further information on the updated design to the community in late 2019.”
The Herald understands those design works are expected to take about eight months to complete, with a submission for funding unlikely to be ready before the 2020/21 state budget.

Such a scenario aligns with Infrastructure Partnerships Australia’s timeline, which predicts construction will start in late 2021 and take three years, across 2022-24, should there be no delays.

Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery said after the hospital completion date was announced that if work on the two projects proceeded at the same time there would be “reprehensible” consequences.

She said the hospital had “a congested internal road network” and external roads were “at breaking point”.
“Staff and visitors are waiting for more than an hour to exit the campus,” she said.

Hunter New England Health CEO Michael Dirienzo said in response to congestion concerns that construction workers would use “fire trails” to access the site during its redevelopment.

But Ms Hornery said on Friday that the timelines of the two projects must be considered together, highlighting the significant loss of parking that will likely occur on Lookout Road and McCaffrey Drive when work on the southern end of the bypass stage commences.

“When you add into the mix the hundreds of construction workers who need a place to park, we are headed for chaos,” she said.

Committee for the Hunter chair Richard Anicich said the government should fast-track the bypass work and “ensure there is adequate coordination of the two projects” to “minimise disruption to the community” and “thousands of people” that access the hospital each day.

“The planning of this bypass has been on the books for so long,” he said.

“It’s pleasing to see we’re getting to a stage where the final design and planning approval process is all but completed, but really as a region we’ve been waiting far too long for this to happen.

“It’s time for the government to deliver on it, and even more so now to address issues about the potential lack of coordination and problems that will cause from these two major adjacent construction projects.”