THE Hunter Expressway is expected to transform traffic movements across the Hunter like never before.
Named the M15, the 40-kilometre expressway between Seahampton and Branxton is the region’s largest road infrastructure project, and will cut up to 28 minutes off the commute between Newcastle and Branxton.
Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) data predicts between 15,000 and 30,000 vehicles will be taken off the New England Highway between Newcastle, Thornton, Maitland and Rutherford.,
Project development north principal manager Colin Nunn said the expressway would remove a lot of heavy vehicles from the New England Highway, and provide a direct route between the Port of Newcastle and the Upper Hunter, northern and central NSW and central Queensland.
“It will reduce congestion in Branxton and near Maitland and improve traffic flow during the morning and afternoon peak periods,” Mr Nunn said.
“It aims to provide a more direct and efficient route for the movement of freight ... and provide a transport artery between the regional centre of Newcastle and urban growth centres in the Lower Hunter.”
More than five million cubic metres of earth were moved during construction and more than 280,000 cubic metres of concrete paving and 288,000 tonnes of asphalt were used.The road has 52 bridges, including three twin high bridges over the Sugarloaf Range, and six interchanges where vehicles can access the road at Newcastle, Buchanan, Kurri Kurri, Loxford, Allandale and Branxton.The federal and state governments funded the $1.7 billion project in 2009.
The federal government committed $1.5 billion and the state government funded the remaining $200 million.
An extension of the M15 into the Upper Hunter was not ruled out when state and federal politicians opened the road on Saturday.
Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said the federal government would negotiate with its NSW government colleagues over the next two months to determine what road and rail projects would be funded over the next five years.
He confirmed NSW would receive a significant share of the $33.5 billion on offer and there were bypasses in the Hunter already in the planning stages that could be funded.
“I’ll be talking to NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay and the NSW government to highlight the details of which
particular projects we’ll be funding and there will be announcements,” Mr Truss said.
Mr Gay said the state government was considering extending the expressway into the Upper Hunter.