NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian officially opened the latest stage of the $580 million Berry Bypass on Tuesday.
Joined by Kiama MP Gareth Ward, South Coast MP Shelley Hancock and Paul Green MLC, the long talked about bypass, which will deliver a more efficient road network in the area, was opened 12 months ahead of schedule.
Traffic actually took to the road for the first time last Thursday night to cater for the returning school holiday traffic at the weekend.
“The early completion of the Berry Bypass is perhaps the most significant achievement yet as part of this wonderful project,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“It is obvious what this bypass means to the residents of Berry, with around 6,000 people turning up last month to participate in the community walk across the new bridge.”
She said the Foxground and Berry bypass project had created around 550 jobs since its beginning and many businesses had benefited from the number of workers involved in the project.
“The Berry community now gets its town back,” she said “and the entire project will also deliver significant benefits to passing motorists.”
Mr Ward said that this project has been talked about since 1955.
“People said it couldn’t be done. Well today, the Berry Bypass is officially open and 12 months ahead of schedule which is absolutely fantastic news for local motorists across our region,” he said.
“This upgrade gives the people of Berry back their town and will also improve road safety and travel times for motorists and pedestrian safety within the town.”
Finalisation work with line marking, landscaping and general maintenance will take place after the Berry Bypass is open to traffic.
There are also three metre wide shoulders on both sides of the bridge to improve safety for all road users and the bypass will greatly reduce congestion in Berry during the peak holiday seasons.
The removal of steep climbs, sharp bends and congestion through Berry and Foxground will save motorists up to seven minutes in travel times.
The number of crashes on the Princes Highway in the upgrade area is expected to be reduced by about 64 per cent as a result of the newly provided divided highway.
Ongoing work to build the new lanes south of Berry will continue and the final road surface will be applied later in the year, with lane closures and reduced speed limits in place when this work is carried out.
Mrs Hancock said since the first sod was turned on the project in January 2015, the 12.5 kilometre $580 million Princes Highway upgrade had progressed at a rapid rate.
“The Berry Bypass takes highway traffic, including heavy vehicles, out of local roads, giving back local streets to the community and improves pedestrian safety,” she said.
“The bypass has on and off ramps at the north and south of Berry to allow free flowing access for drivers wishing to access Berry.”
She paid credit to the dogged determination of Gareth Ward in driving the project.
A key component of the Berry bypass is the bridge which has a deck length of around 610 metres and is 25 metres wide.
It caters for four lanes of traffic, with two lanes in each direction and is separated by a wire rope safety barrier in the median.