Preliminary geotechnical work is being carried out on the East Nowra Sub Arterial (ENSA).
ENSA is designed to alleviate the pressure off the Kalandar Street/Princes Highway intersection, will take traffic off the Princes Highway behind Stockland Nowra, across the floodplain to rejoin Greenwell Point Road, providing easier access for traffic travelling to the eastern villages.
Estimates range anywhere from $25 million up to $45 million.
With the announcement of the successful tenders to replace the Shoalhaven River bridge expected to be announced prior to Christmas, planning and construction of ENSA also has to be a priority.
Shoalhaven City Council's economic development manager Greg Pullen said initial planning work had started on the project and council has two grant funding applications currently before the State Government's Growing Local Economy scheme.
"We have two grant applications lodged for ENSA but at this stage have heard nothing," Mr Pullen said.
"Council has six applications all together lodged under the funding scheme for a variety of projects.
"We've been successful with funding for two projects already - one for the Aviation Technology Park and the other for a heavy-duty boating wharf facility at Woollamia."
The grant applications for ENSA are for two different options - one to preliminary preload for the road. Building the road up with fill, allowing it to settle, be compacted and then construct the road, with the majority of the early work at the Nowra CBD end and at the intersection with Old Southern Road.
The other is for the "full monty" the whole project and that's around $45 million.
"ENSA will play a vital role in any improvements to the Nowra road networks" Mr Pullen said.
"Rather than people travelling to or from work from the east on the Princes Highway, it's about getting them across the highway at one point.
"The pressure point is really Kalandar Street and the highway intersection. There is room to do graded separation there to allow traffic flow but the cost of that is estimated at $50 million.
"About 5000 people work in the Nowra CBD, the majority from the eastern side of the highway and we have got to look at ways to get them across the highway easily."
He admitted ENSA is a "big project".
"It's being built on a flood plain and an area that when it rains heavily does flood, which creates a number of issues," he said.
"Work is underway investigating how it can be built - do we build a network of connecting bridges?
"Do we build the road up?
"It is a swamp area and will be susceptible to sinkage.
"We also have to be mindful of being above flood level but not blocking the floodwaters.
"There are also issues with the Nowra High School playing fields - while the fields have already been acquired before any work can start on ENSA they need to be replaced on the adjoining land at Wondalga."
At this stage though there are no plans to extend ENSA onto Old Southern Road and out past the housing developments to Warra Warra Road and back onto the highway at the large highway roundabout, effectively creating an eastern bypass.
It is understood there could be issues regarding the road and approvals given for some of the subdivisions in that area.
Advanced work has also started on the Far North Collector Road, which will also play a role in alleviating traffic issues.
Mr Pullen said the new Nowra bridge won't be completed until 2024-25 at best.
"The rest of the network needs to be capable of coping," Mr Pullen said.
"This bridge upgrade will bring more traffic into Nowra making a pinch point.
"We developed the Nowra Key Road Projects Strategic Overview in 2017, which was adopted by council in 2018.
"It is aimed to address some of the issues."
One project already completed as part of that plan is the upgrade of Flinders Road.
The document has been presented to the State Government and Transport NSW.
A series of connecting ring roads have been proposed, including possibly one-way street scenarios in and around the Nowra CBD.
A connection road is also envisaged from Albatross/Yalwal roads to the roundabout at Hillcrest Avenue.
"That gets all that traffic from the west, HMAS Albatross, the Aviation Park or the university through the area quicker - again away from the Kalandar Street intersection," he said.
"The bridge replacement isn't just about replacing the old Nowra bridge. It's also about securing the future of industry along the South Coast.
"At the moment the weight limit for the old Nowra bridge is around 68 tonnes depending on the truck's axle configuration.
"Items from Manildra, fodder trucks, stock trucks are all restricted and any truck can only be 4.6m high.
"The new bridge and moving traffic onto the current concrete bridge southbound will also allow for bigger trucks to be brought across the Shoalhaven River.
"At the moment trucks have to either come in underweight or undersized or offload some of their load."
And as for a western Nowra bypass, yes while it would be good, Mr Pullen believes with the announcement of the bridge and upgrades of the associated intersections the resulting road corridor for the next 50 years will remain through central Nowra.
"It's never been costed or even designed," he said.
"It's still just a line on a map but sure is part of future wishlists but it will be a massive job."