LOCALS anxiously awaiting the grand opening of the Hunter Expressway will be put out of their misery on March 22.
The opening date for the highly anticipated project
was announced last Thursday morning in a joint statement from state and federal governments drawing a close to speculation.
Located between the M1 Pacific Motorway near Seahampton and the New England Highway west of Branxton, the 40 kilometre corridor is tipped to slash almost half-an-hour off travel times between Newcastle and the Hunter region.
For Tamworth’s Christine Price, completion of the $1.7 billion project can not come soon enough.
The mother-of-two knows the Tamworth to Sydney route “like the back of her hand” after trudging back and forth up to 25 times a year.
In fact, she is gearing up to make three trips to the harbour city in the next fortnight alone, ferrying her son, Nick, a talented discus and hammer thrower to training and competitions.
“We are going down this weekend and going down again on Wednesday and then we head back home on Sunday and do it all again the following weekend,” she said last week.
“We can’t wait for it to be open ... it’s long overdue.”
Steve Gribbin is another Tamworth resident who has been keeping a close eye on the project, which was initially slated to open last November.
Mr Gribbin, who suffers from liver disease, beats the path to Sydney once every three months to see his specialist at RPA Hospital.
And as his condition progresses, he will be making the journey more frequently.
“It knocks me about and takes me three of four days to get over it,” Mr Gribbin said.
“Flying is too expensive. Anything to cut the time will be good.”
Heavy vehicles travelling between the Port of Newcastle and the Upper Hunter, northern and central NSW and central Queensland will be offered a more efficient and direct route once the expressway is functioning.
More than 10,000 people have worked on the expressway since construction started in August 2010.