CONSTRUCTION of the Bega Bypass has finally begun, three decades after the first line was sketched on a map.
Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese joined Member for Eden-Monaro Mike Kelly at the site on Tuesday, to turn the first sod on the $60million project.
Chrome shovel in hand, Mr Albanese said the bypass would transform the nature of Bega.
“It’s good to be back here with Mike Kelly…today we honour the promise we made prior to the 2007 election,” Mr Albanese said.
“It’s great to make a promise, see it get started and get it done.
“This project will create 360 jobs and take about 45 per cent of traffic off the main road of Bega – including around 500 trucks every day.
“I am confident what we’re now building will stand the test of time.”
Mr Albanese extended his appreciation to those who would do the “hard yakka” in construction, and to Mr Kelly who had been “tenacious” in ensuring the funding for the bypass.
Mr Kelly said he remembered stories of the bypass, sitting on his father’s knee.
“The bypass is no longer just an aspiration or a line on the map – it will soon be a real road delivering real benefits including safer, quicker driving conditions,” Mr Kelly said.
“The beginning of a new era for Bega is now closer than ever before.”
This week’s celebrations, he said, wouldn’t be occurring at all if it wasn’t for those in the Bega Valley community who had championed the project over many years.
Bega Valley Shire mayor Tony Allen hailed the sod turning as a big day in Bega’s history.
“For the majority of us outside the city, we don’t believe major projects like this are going to happen until we see it with our own eyes,” Cr Allen said.
“This is the fulfilment of lots of discussion.
“It’s an exciting time because there is a myriad of activity going on around the place - getting the bypass up and running, the new regional hospital bedded down and the Masters development.”
Cr Allen said - based on the experiences of towns like Yass and Goulburn - he expected there would be a “settling in period” once the bypass was open, but the long-term effect on the town would be extremely positive.
“I think the town will really gain momentum.
“Once the trucks are taken out, the place becomes much more shopper-friendly.”