The state government’s intentions behind the construction timetable of the one-way overpass at the roundabout on the New England Highway near Maitland railway station has come into question.
Cessnock MP Clayton Barr said the timeframe to solve the city’s highway traffic congestion issues was convenient in that it would allow the government to see the effects of the Hunter Expressway.
Work on overpass had been scheduled to start in 2014.
The Hunter Expressway, to be completed next year, had been predicted to take between 30 and 40 per cent of traffic off the New England Highway, yet the government when in opposition had continued to push for the roundabout upgrade, Mr Barr said.
He has written to Roads Minister Duncan Gay several times about road upgrades, but each time he received the same reply – that projects across the Hunter were on hold until the impact of the Hunter Expressway had been realised.
“The state government can’t apply one logic to one roundabout and then another to other projects,” he said.
“They have decided not to do anything about the Rutherford bottleneck as well as dozens of other projects, but their logic is the opposite when it comes to the railway roundabout.
Mr Barr acknowledged the roundabout was heavily congested, but said the money for the overpass would be better spent on the government’s promised Lower Hunter Hospital.
“If the roundabout upgrade had been built four, seven or 10 years ago it would have been fantastic,” he said.
“I’d hate for the government to get $25 million into the project and realise we don’t need it.”
The mayor of Maitland, Cr Peter Blackmore, said the upgrade must not be a Band-Aid solution and has to be able to allow for future population growth, which is expected to hit 130,000 by 2030.
“We can’t be fixing the problem for now, we have to fix the problem for now and the future,” Cr Blackmore said.
“With an extra 14 cars on Maitland roads each week we need to plan for the future.
“At the moment I’m not happy with the roundabouts, more and more motorists are taking risks.”