IT was a history-making day for Nowra with the first sod turned for the new $342 million Nowra bridge.
NSW Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole was joined by assistant minister to the Deputy Prime Minister Kevin Hogan and local members Gareth Ward (Kiama) and Shelley Hancock (South Coast) along with Federal Member for Gilmore Fiona Phillips who heard about the event on the radio and decided to turn up, in turning the first sods for the new four-lane north-bound bridge.
Billed as a day "Nowra should celebrate", there was no commitment from the state government that proposed upgrades to the Princes Highway, south of the Jervis Bay Road to the Victorian border would be fast-tracked in an effort to further boost the struggling Australian economy.
In a week in which there was another fatality on the Princes Highway at Bewong, Minister Toole would not commit to fast-tracking the highway upgrade.
Instead he spoke of the work currently being undertaken.
"There is plenty of roadworks construction taking place. Look at the Berry to Bomaderry upgrade, the Albion Park Rail bypass going ahead with something like 13 bridges being constructed," he said.
"There is the Milton Ulladulla bypass, the Jervis Bay Road intersections and we have the Safer Roads Program, where we are rolling out $822 million over five years.
"We are looking to roll that out in areas we have seen crashes."
The Minister said one fatality was one too many.
"We are fast-tracking projects, local roads, state highways, bringing as many forward as we can," he said.
"At the times of a pandemic it is critical we have jobs in the communities and it will make our roads safer.
"Do we ever say our roads are safe enough? No and we will continue to invest.
"It is the Liberal/National government that has provided another billion dollars in this term of government. We will see $2.5 billion go into the Princes Highway."
But again no commitment to fast-tracking work on the Princes Highway south of Jervis Bay Road.
"You have to do the planning, you have to talk to the community, you have to do environmental impact statements we will continue to do that along the way - we will invest," he said.
Mr Toole said the new Nowra bridge was critical to the transformation of journeys along the South Coast.
"This project will change the way residents, tourists and heavy vehicles move in and around the region - and critically, will drive economic activity in the local economy," he said.
Transport for NSW figures shows more than 50,000 vehicles cross the Shoalhaven River every day and 85 per cent of that traffic is local traffic.