Michael Johnsen MP, Member for Upper Hunter, and John Barilaro MP, Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional today announced the Nationals in government would “go it alone”, and commit the full $266 million required to fund the New England Highway Bypass at Muswellbrook.

Joining Mr Johnsen in Muswellbrook, Mr Barilaro said that following the completion of a report into the bypass route, a preferred corridor has been identified, and construction would commence as soon as 2022.

“The community has been calling on us to get on with building the bypass, with Michael Johnsen lobbying consistently for the Government to get on with funding and construction, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” Mr Barilaro said.

“We were waiting for our federal counterparts to make their own funding commitment, but rather that waiting for that to happen, we’ve decided to go ahead and fully fund the project ourselves as a state government.

“In government we have worked hard to put ourselves in the financial position where we can fund projects as large as this, when there is a clear and pressing need for it to get done.

“In short, we want to get on with the job so we can deliver this vital project,” he said.

Mr Johnsen said he had been frustrated by the length of delay in planning for the project and welcomed the NSW Government’s decision to fully fund the Bypass.

“I have lobbied my Nationals colleagues hard to fully fund this project, and I couldn’t be happier with today’s announcement. By fully funding the project we have cut the red tape and can get on with delivering the bypass,” Mr Johnsen said.

“This is a win-win for all – great news for the Muswellbrook community which will no longer have trucks travelling through town, but also for motorists on the New England Highway who will have their travel times slashed.

“The Nationals deliver for our country communities, and this project is expected to create 720 direct jobs and 1090 indirect jobs for our region.

“Due to hard work and responsible economic policy over the last eight years, the NSW Nationals in government are able to make this full funding commitment to our Muswellbrook community.”

The next steps of the project include concept design, environment assessment and negotiating land acquisitions with landholders.

The 9.1km bypass would begin about 1km south of the New England Highway intersection at Muscle Creek Road, and reconnect to the existing highway about 1.2km north of Sandy Creek Road. It will have a speed limit of 100km/hr.

The NSW Nationals in government will start work on concept designs and begin negotiations with landholders immediately, with community consultation expected to occur in the second half of 2019. Construction will commence as soon as 2022.