OPINION

Meryl Swanson's Canberra Matters: Funding for regional roads falls short

Main Road, Heddon Greta
Main Road, Heddon Greta

Regional roads are often underfunded, competing for finite resources across all levels of government.

I have always been at the front of the queue to ask for increased support and funding for our region's road system and will continue to do so up to the next election.

Main Road, Heddon Greta has experienced an extraordinary increase in traffic since the completion of the Hunter Expressway and, along with this increased traffic, has been the impact on the surrounding streets, their residents and the motorists who use them.

Prior to the last election I was able to secure a funding commitment from Federal Labor to build a commuter car park and roundabout just off the Hunter Expressway at Heddon Greta.

Because this infrastructure was not part of the original plan when the expressway was built, it has created traffic issues at the far end of Main Road, Heddon Greta near the service station.

Following the election, I called on the Liberal Government to match the funding and support this infrastructure, but the request fell on deaf ears.

The Hunter Expressway has been an amazing piece of infrastructure that has opened up the economies of the towns and cities it services, cutting travelling times for many who work north and south of Heddon Greta.

Unfortunately, there were shortfalls in the planning that has contributed to increased traffic from Heddon Greta right through to Maitland.

The Hunter Expressway was funded by the Federal Government but feeder roads, like Main Road, Heddon Greta are the responsibility of the NSW and/or local governments.

I will continue to work with my colleagues in state and local government to advocate for more funding to support the infrastructure needed along Main Road, Heddon Greta.

Infrastructure Australia recently released its 2021 priority list and raised the poor quality of parts of Australia's regional road network and stated that 55 percent of road fatalities in Australia occurred in regional areas. This is on average four times greater than for major cities.

Infrastructure improvements can play an important role in mitigating the consequences of road accidents but to do this there needs to be adequate funding.

Infrastructure Australia also found that COVID has changed the way people are moving with people migrating to the regions permanently. This also supports the need for more regional funding for our roads.

Alongside Clayton Barr and Cessnock City Council, I will continue to advocate for more resources for our regions and for the necessary infrastructure improvements along Main Road, Heddon Greta.