AN ESTIMATED 1000 people took the opportunity to walk along a section of the Bega Bypass on Saturday, weeks before it officially opens to traffic.
In glorious spring sunshine, Roads and Maritime Services opened up part of the soon-to-be-complete bypass to walkers, cyclists, kids on scooters and everything in between as a way of saying thank you to the community for its patience during construction.
Plans to have the entire 3.5km length open to walkers were unfortunately shelved at the last minute after last week’s wild storms caused some damage to the Finucane Lane end of the bypass construction, which wasn't able to be rectified before Saturday morning.
Workers were still hard at it throughout Saturday on the southern end of the road, but it didn't faze the many hundreds of people hiking from the new roundabout at the Bega River Bridge to the Ravenswood St overpass and back.
Along the way sausage sizzles put on by the Bega SES and VRA crews and a free jumping castle kept people fed and entertained, while RMS personnel were on hand throughout the day to chat with passers-by about the project.
RMS project services manager Ian Archer said the day was better than expected, despite the last-minute setback of having part of the road remain closed.
“We set the date for this six or seven weeks ago,” Mr Archer said.
“Everyone’s done a really good job overall, but once you set a date…
“Today is beautiful, we’ve been very lucky, but last week’s weather caused a bit of damage at the southern end, and the bitumen seal, which was intended to be laid by now, has been delayed while we wait for the road base to completely dry out.
“We want this pavement to last 20 to 30 years at least, so we don’t want to trap any moisture below the seal.”
Mr Archer said once that seal was in place and depending on the weather, the bypass should be open to traffic within two weeks, then allowing engineers to finish off the southern connection.
The existing highway is at a different level to the new bypass so excavations need to occur once traffic has been shifted onto the new road.
“There’s at least a couple of weeks of work once traffic is on the bypass – then we can call the project complete and get some important people in suits here.
“We were anticipating a March-April 2014 opening, now it’s October.
“Most of that is due to the great work of Hollands - and starting work in six months of drought, which is perfect for road building.”
The 3.5km, two-lane bypass will take heavy vehicles out of the CBD, improving safety for locals.
More than 190,000 cubic metres of earthwork was carried out and two bridges were built with pedestrian access over the new highway, as well as an underpass for local traffic with pedestrian access at Applegum Close.
A new roundabout south of the Bega River Bridge was also installed and the intersection at Finucane Lane was rebuilt to improve sight distance and road safety.
About 70 workers were on site each day with more than 470 people in total working on the project, delivering an important boost for the local economy.