Planning for a Nowra bypass will not fix the traffic problem because it may take state government attention away from much-needed funding for six lanes of traffic through Nowra and a grade separation at Kalandar Street, says Shoalhaven City councillor Greg Watson.
Cr Watson said: "If we forget about all the other works that need to be done, Transport for NSW (TfNSW) is very likely to solely focus on planning the bypass."
Cr Watson raised his concerns to council at Tuesday night's Development & Environment Committee meeting because he "wanted to enforce to the council not to get too carried away with pushing and mentioning only the bypass of Nowra when the immediate need is to fix the traffic through Nowra".
Cr Watson said if the issue of traffic is not fixed by TfNSW, the cost of these fixes will come back on the ratepayers in the future.
Tony Emery, spokesperson for transport and roads for the Shoalhaven Business Chamber, said the chamber had been active in trying to get Shoalhaven City Council, TfNSW and NSW MP Gareth Ward to work together on solving the problem of traffic in Nowra.
Mr Emery said an upgrade to the Nowra highway is "absolutely" more important in the short term than a Nowra bypass, although the chamber was not against the bypass as a long term traffic solution.
"If they triplicate the highway both ways and put a graded separation at Kalandar street, that will keep Nowra going and keep the highway moving until a bypass can be built.
"A grade separation is where you've got flyovers. So there's no lights and no roundabouts. All the traffic keeps flowing wherever it wants to go and wherever it comes from.
"So all the traffic from Albatross, all the traffic from Greenwell Point, all the traffic from West Nowra will merge into the highway seamlessly," he said.
"We need a solution now that can be completed within the time frame of the new bridge opening to get traffic through Nowra."
The project would need to be staged with the first stage beginning from Bolong Road to Kalandar Street and would include the grade separation, Mr Emery said.
Mr Emery said council and TfNSW "don't seem to understand the urgency of the situation that is developing. They're not working in a coordinated manner to find solutions."
Mr Emery said traffic at the Kalandar Street/Princes Highway intersection is going to worsen, especially if the East Nowra Sub Arterial Road (ENSA) fails to get the green light.
ENSA is unlikely to go ahead, according to Mr Emery, "because it would go across a swamp and the costs are potentially going out to somewhere towards $50 million just to get a road starting somewhere off Moss street through to Greenwell Point Road".
Cr Watson wants the Nowra bypass to be scheduled to commence as soon as the internal roads in Nowra are corrected.
"Bear in mind at the moment, TfNSW has no plans, not even a twinkle in their eyes, to construct that bypass," he said.
The Nowra bypass is not included in TfNSW's Draft Illawarra-Shoalhaven Regional Transport Plan which is forward-looking over a 10-year period.
However, at Tuesday night's meeting, council voted unanimously in favour of submitting staff-backed regional transport plan amendments to TfNSW, including the request for the inclusion of a Nowra bypass in the plan and the construction of six lanes of traffic on the Nowra highway.
A whole raft of recommendations to the transport plan was carried and will be submitted to TfNSW, including the extension of Opal Cards throughout the Shoalhaven.
"Council has done a lot of work for TfNSW by identifying the route and we've reserved the transport corridor for it by putting in place restrictive zonings that prevent development within that corridor," he said.
"What we need for TfNSW to do is have a look at the identified route and make sure that it is their preferred option and then start the longer-term planning for its construction," said Cr Watson.
Cr Watson said the next step should be a joint meeting with all the stakeholders including the Shoalhaven Business Chamber, NSW Member for South Coast Shelley Hancock and NSW Member for Kiama Gareth Ward.
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