Bucketts Way aims for upgrade

Weismantels is one of three sections on Bucketts Way identified for passing lanes in Stage One of the upgrades.
Weismantels is one of three sections on Bucketts Way identified for passing lanes in Stage One of the upgrades.

Three regional councils have joined forces to see if they can start fixing what’s wrong with Bucketts Way south of Gloucester to the Pacific Highway. Starting with Stage 1 at a cost of around $6.68 million, Gloucester, Great Lakes and Port Stephens have formed a united front to submit an expression of interest for funding to the NSW Government’s Fixing Country Road Programs. Their first hope is to build three overtaking lanes on a major transport road which currently has... none. 

Bucketts Way is a key transport route for local and export timber, poultry, dairy, beef, coal related activities, other agricultural products, and is an important freight corridor to the New England area. 

Consultant Brett Peterkin, facilitating discussions between the local community and government organisations for infrastructure projects at AGL’s behest, said that approximately 2500 vehicles use Bucketts Way daily, with approximately 12 per cent of that made up by heavy vehicles. As a result, an initial meeting between representatives from all three councils working together across boundaries identified the top shared priorities as the need for passing lanes at Weismantel, Craven Flat and Limeburners Creek. 

Supporting the application, the local member for Upper Hunter Michael Johnsen said that the plan put together and co-ordinated by Brett Peterkin has identified where appropriate improvements can and should be made.

“It will assist all levels of government in identifying the priorities for funding and as the local state member, I am fighting for any funding possible, even though it's not a state road. My aim is to get it fixed and upgraded and I don't care too much about who is responsible or not,” Mr Johnsen said.

The plan has also received the National Roads and Motorists Association’s(NRMA) backing, with local director Wendy Machin saying the biggest gripe for motorists is the road’s poor condition.

“Bucketts Way is a very busy freight route, which makes it an important economic asset but also means that it is exposed to a lot of wear and tear from trucks. It’s also a tourist route, so visitors unfamiliar with the road are being exposed to unacceptable safety risks. The notoriously dangerous road was voted the third worst road in the wider hunter region for 2015.”

Ms Machin said that the NRMA has been calling for increased funding for Bucketts Way for at least five years. “In our budget submission to the NSW Government last year, we flagged the need for the road to receive ongoing upgrades and maintenance. These upgrades are essential if we want to save lives and improve the safety of the more than 2,000 motorists using the road every day,” she concluded, adding that the councils’ funding application had NRMA’s full support.

A long term plan through to Stage 5 has also been developed by the councils which identifies key areas requiring work and upgrades, including some works to address Thunderbolts Way. The focus of the entire project is to improve safety by widening and rebuilding sections.

With the three councils contributing a total of more than $600,000 for Stage 1, they are proposing to seek matching contributions from the Federal Government for Stages 2 – 5 to cater for anticipated increases in freight movement into the future. 

According to Mr Peterkin, the last time Bucketts Way enjoyed an overhaul was around 20 years ago, when up to $20 million was spent on works. On a road for which Port Stephens owns 6km, Great Lakes owns more than 50km, and Gloucester owns the remaining 25km or so, it’s an amount which wouldn’t go far today.  Councils now estimate road reconstructions costing an average $1 million per kilometre, depending on terrain. 

If successful with their expression of interest, the united councils will be invited to complete a full application at the end of this month. Stage 1 projects for those receiving grants are expected to commence mid-year.