NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance has called for a rethink of a proposal to close the main road linking Canberra with the South Coast during work hours for four days a week for more than two months from the end of August 2021.
The closure, to allow important road safety work on Kings Highway, has sparked uproar in the community, with business owners from Braidwood to Batemans Bay warning it could be the final straw following drought, bushfires and COVID-19.
Work to remove 400 bushfire-damaged roadside trees under the current proposal would see Kings Highway at Clyde Mountain closed from River Forest Road to Misty Mountain Road, Monday to Thursday between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm, from Monday, 30 August, to mid-November, weather permitting.
Business owners say the timing could hardly be worse, coinciding with the start of spring and cutting off the region from Canberra during a time when Sydney trade is non-existent because of ongoing COVID-19 lockdowns.
Mr Constance responded on social media, saying the proposed scheduling is “too harsh”.
“While everyone knows the importance of upgrades and maintenance on Kings Highway, the proposed scheduling of closures is too harsh for our community at this time,” he said.
“I’ve asked Transport for NSW in Wollongong to immediately review this and re-engage with Eurobodalla Shire Council and business chambers on a compromise solution.
“[NSW Minister for Regional Transport and Roads) Paul Toole needs to also get involved here and have his agency sort this out. I understand a representation went to him from council.”
An arborist has identified about 400 trees on the Clyde Mountain section of Kings Highway that are unstable and need to be removed after being burnt during the Black Summer bushfires and then weathering floods and storms.
Online reaction to the proposed closures has been mixed, with most people recognising the need for work to keep the highway safe and accessible, but many questioning the timing, coming at the start of the traditional spring tourism season rather than during the winter months.
Concerns have also been expressed about the impact the full road closures will have on NSW South Coast residents seeking medical treatment in Canberra, with the route north via the Hume Highway, Picton Road and Princes Highway potentially adding up to 7.5 hours of travel time depending on the road user’s origin and destination.
The alternative route south via the Monaro Highway, Snowy Mountains Highway and Princes Highway could add up to 5.5 hours of travel time depending on the road user’s origin and destination.