Port Stephens community feedback sought on Fingal Bay Link Road route

ESSENTIAL: Fingal Bay's Alex Watkins, pictured with partner Leah Elliott, says a bypass link road is necessary for safety reasons.
ESSENTIAL: Fingal Bay's Alex Watkins, pictured with partner Leah Elliott, says a bypass link road is necessary for safety reasons.

For nearly half a century the Fingal bypass has been one of the most talked-about and highly controversial road projects to plague Port Stephens and the people of Shoal Bay and Fingal Bay.

With plans first drawn up in the mid-1970s for a bypass road from Nelson Bay to Fingal Bay, many residents had given up hope of ever seeing it come to fruition until the Liberal Party pledged $188 million at the March 2019 state election to build the road.

However, the proposal hit a snag when just days after the election result Liberal MLC Catherine Cusack declared the project would not proceed because Labor MP Kate Washington had campaigned against it.

This prompted an immediate rebuke from NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who was forced to reiterate that "all of our election commitments will be honoured".

For many Tomaree residents the link road is an essential piece of infrastructure for safety and accessible reasons.

A new road would also ease congestion between the Nelson Bay CBD and the towns of Shoal Bay and Fingal Bay during peak visitor periods.

Fingal Bay resident of 30-plus years and business owner Alex Watkins said the new road would provide a lifeline for Port residents and visitors in case of a crisis, such as fire or accident.

"Two years ago we had a toddler in distress from a choking fit and it took well over 20 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. The toddler's mum was in a panic and, fortunately, there was a nurse on the scene to assist while waiting for the ambulance," he said.

"The thought of having easier access in response to a bushfire, a major health issue or vehicle accident is essential and a relief for long suffering residents. I know some people are concerned about possible damage to the environment and wildlife, but I would hope that these issues are taking into consideration when planning begins."

CONCEPT: Three route options for the Fingal Bay Link Road have been released by Transport for NSW. Residents have until December 11 to have their say.

CONCEPT: Three route options for the Fingal Bay Link Road have been released by Transport for NSW. Residents have until December 11 to have their say.

The NSW government last week released three potential route options for the Fingal Bay Link Road, inviting the community to have their say on design concepts .

Paul Toole, the Minister for Regional Transport and Roads, said Transport for NSW was carrying out planning for the link road and investigating its feasibility.

"We are committed to improving access to and from Shoal Bay and Fingal Bay, and the community is already telling us that there are many ways we can do that, with varying impacts on property, the Tomaree National Park and indigenous heritage," he said.

"That's why we're going out with a shorter connection to Austral Street and a road upgrade package for the existing network, alongside the original proposed route through Tomaree National Park. We want to get the right option for the community."

Ms Cusack said community feedback was necessary so the government could "understand local concerns and preferences for a link road".

"With forecast population growth and increased tourist activity, it's important that we push ahead with a solution to improve traffic flow and safety for all road users, so we continue to make Nelson Bay and the Tomaree Peninsula an even better place to live, work and visit," she said.

To see the route options go to nswroads.work/fingalbay.

Comments and feedback on the proposed routes can be sent to the project team until 5pm on Friday, December 11 by email at fingalbay@transport.nsw.gov.au or by post to: Fingal Bay project team, Transport for NSW, Locked Bag 2030, Newcastle NSW 2300.