The Barton Highway upgrades will not be completed until at least 2023, despite the arterial road that links the ACT and Hume Highway being originally earmarked for a mid-2020 finish.
There are four phases to the $200 million upgrades to the Barton Highway – three of which are yet to be completed.
During NSW Budget Estimates, the Minister for Regional Transport and Roads, Paul Toole, was coy in explaining why.
After being asked why the upgrades were behind schedule no less than 13 times by the Shadow Minister for Roads, John Graham, Mr Toole said it came down to capacity issues.
“I think when you look at the capacity of the number of projects that we also have, it is capacity issues. There are issues around supply as well. We need to consider all these factors with the market as well,” he said.
Transport NSW regional roads executive director Roy Wakelin-King said that the project’s delay was a result of its expansion and changes to the original plans.
“The issue where there has been a change is in the overtaking opportunities leading to the duplication, which has been changed as a consequence of the additional scope,” he told Estimates.
“[We will need] to undertake further work in respect of both assurance and scope management, which would lead to changes to procurement and also the next stages from there.”
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said he was not impressed by the progress of the highway, which he said was also contrary to economic commentary coming from the Reserve Bank and other economists who have emphasised the benefits of infrastructure spending as an economic driver.
“The complexities of the Barton Highway project have been canvassed extensively over quite some time, but it is an important road that leads Canberra to the Hume Highway and the region,” he said.
“Any setback in relation to making that road safer for people to travel on is a disappointing outcome.”
The Barton Highway, which links Canberra to Murrumbateman and the Hume Highway at Yass, has consistently been rated one of the worst and most dangerous roads in NSW and the ACT in the NRMA’s annual Seeing Red on Roads survey.
The fourth stage is set to duplicate parts of the highway north of the ACT towards Murrumbateman. Registrations of interest for the project closed in November 2019, with five companies expressing interest in the tender, set to be finalised soon.