Rob Caldwell suggests the old Fingal Tourist Drive plans of the 1960s should be revived

The Nelson Bay bypass, alternatively known as the Fingal Bay link road, should double as a tourist drive, according to a former traffic engineer.

Rob Caldwell has called on Port Stephens Council and the state government to reconsider the 52 year old plans for the Fingal Bay Tourist Road, or ocean road as he describes it.

The route as gazetted in 1966 would run through the National Park, past Skate Bay, Big Rocky, Little Rocky and Skate Bay.

“You would be able to drive to a few points with a car park, some short pathways and signs telling stories about the sights and old ship wrecks,” Mr Caldwell said.

“Like with the Great Ocean Road, you don’t actually see much of the ocean, but there’s lots of places to stop with sightseeing and you could do the same here.”

The old plans have in recent years become superseded with a plan to create a more direct link road as a means of access to and from Fingal Bay to overcome the “one road in, one road out” issue.

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Mr Caldwell was a sub-consultant on a 1990 study to create a more direct route between Government Road (Final Bay/Shoal Bay) and Nelson Bay Road/Gan Gan Roads.

Revision of these more recent plans have focused on discussions with Worimi elders. The route for the Tourist Road runs parallel to the coast, south of Fingal, where it follows an ark to the right, heading inland, crossing Gan Gan Road before rejoining Nelson Bay Road.

“There has not been a tree removed, nor a sod turned, so, I believe there is time to review the proposal,” Mr Caldwell said.

While longer, he said it didn’t have to cost more.

He noted that the 1990 plans were costed on a road with a 100kmh speed limit.

“If you limited the ocean road to 70 kmh you could do it with no cuttings, no fill, or steep embankments and that would save money,” he said.

In Mr Caldwell’s opinion the ocean drive should connect with Fingal Bay off either Boulder Bay Road or Rocky Point Road, each being lined with houses on one side.

“Boulder Bay Road would be wide enough as is but it might inconvenience fewer residents on Rocky Point Road,” he said.

A council spokesman said neither were preferred options as the road travels through residential areas and is very narrow.

Mr Caldwell said there was still space for realignment.

“A good, hot mix seal would reduce noise but there’s space for other noise abatement, particularly on Rocky Point Road if needed.”

This issue aside Mr Caldwell said there was another challenge.

“The biggest thing, I think, would be getting National Parks to agree with it.”

TOO HARD: As reported in the Examiner, January 27, 1988, then Environment Minister Bob Carr (1995-2005 premier) snubbed discussions about the Fingal tourist road, which then had a $2.3 million price tag, and said to be environmentally too difficult.

TOO HARD: As reported in the Examiner, January 27, 1988, then Environment Minister Bob Carr (1995-2005 premier) snubbed discussions about the Fingal tourist road, which then had a $2.3 million price tag, and said to be environmentally too difficult.

Fingal Link no new idea

A Nelson Bay bypass for Fingal Bay access has been on the agenda for more than 52 years, often the topic of conversation in peak holiday season.

“The additional traffic at this time of year only reinforces the need for a second point of access,” Port Stephens Mayor Ryan Palmer said. “That and the duplication of Nelson Bay Road are the two priorities for the Tomaree Peninsula.”

A tourist road was gazetted as a second access point on January 26, 1966.

It was defined as a road: "from the intersection of Boulder Bay Road and Bent Street in Fingal Bay village, generally westerly to Skate Bay, thence generally north westerly to the Anna Bay Loop Road (Gan Gan Road) at a point approximately 10 chains (200m) southerly from portion 195".

That is, near the existing four-wheel-drive access, approximately 1.5 km north of Frost Road/Gan Gan Road Intersection.

The road was in 1996 removed from the gazette.

“When they gazetted it as a tourist road it was eligible for state and government grants and it’s a shame that nobody took it up,” Former traffic engineer and consultant Rob Caldwell said.

Since then Port Stephens Council has worked toward a shorter route from Government Road near Shoal Bay running to behind Nelson Bay Golf Club, before rejoining Nelson Bay Road at the intersection with Gan Gan Road, although a council spokesman said another, undisclosed option is under consideration too.

Mr Caldwell was contracted in 1988 to complete the Nelson Bay Traffic Study which touched on the need for a bypass. He was also subcontracted to provide traffic data for a 1990 Frank Knight study on what became council’s prefered route.

“Although there has been a lot of money spent on studies, survey and design for this route, [preferred option] is not a good solution in terms of transportation planning and road infrastructure for the Tomaree Peninsula,” Mr Caldwell said.

“There has not been a tree removed, nor a sod turned, so, I believe there is time to review the proposal.”

Cr Palmer said he loved the idea but remained committed to council’s preferred route.

“Something like a tourist drive with ocean views would be great for tourism but how feasible it is going through National Park is another matter,” he said.

He’s hopeful the preferred route will meet approval.

“Speaking to the staff we’ve never had a better relationship with the Worimi, as we continue to work on a number of projects across Port Stephens,” he said.

The cost and benefit of such a road will depend on more studies.

“As some of these reports only last for about 3 years, we will only commence them once we are close to resolving the land acquisition issue,” council’s assets section manager John Maretich said. 

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