RACE drivers and a Visy Packaging B-double were among the first vehicles to use the 110 km/h Woomargama bypass after it was officially opened at 10.25am yesterday.
The racing teams were returning north after competing in the Targa High Country Challenge at Mansfield, though most of their small race cars were being carried home on low-loaders.
Visy’s B-double and a cavalcade of trucks, buses, hot rods and caravans saved more than five minutes by using the $265 million new road — now called the Hume Motorway — in preference to the narrow, winding route through the village.
But road safety more than speed was federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese’s theme when he cut a green ribbon to open the road, helped by member for Albury Greg Aplin and Greater Hume Mayor Denise Osborne.
Click on the photo for our full gallery og pictures from the opening.
Mr Albanese said road safety was a prime advantage and the nine- kilometre road was as much about “saving lives” as achieving productivity and efficiency on the interstate transport corridor.
Mr Aplin, wearing his hat as NSW Staysafe Committee chairman, emphasised the safety aspects and said the bypass was one more step in eliminating the bad safety record of what used to be called “the deadly Hume”.
“The Woomargama and Tarcutta bypasses will take up to 2700 trucks a day off the local streets of the villages,’’ Mr Aplin said.
Cr Osborne and several Greater Hume councillors welcomed the bypass opening.
“We’ve been waiting for it for many years, possibly 20 years,’’ she said.
NSW Roads and Maritime Services’ Hume Highway manager Tony Dobbin and Abigroup bypass project manager Courtney Hoops have led an army of 1500 workers involved in the project since it started in February 2010.
“About half the jobs went to local people,’’ Mr Dobbin said.
“It has brought a lot of money into the area.”
About a third of the $265 million is thought to have been spent on wages and employment costs.
Squirrel gliders and a rare bird called the brown tree creeper have been given jumping poles and a tunnel crossing to help them negotiate the bypass route built through steep hill country west of Woomargama.
More than 250,000 native plants and shrubs have been planted, with wet weather helping them get established.
Editorial — page 14