STATE bureaucrats in charge of road planning say they do not expect any changes to traffic conditions in Singleton after the opening of the Hunter Expressway.
Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) officers have based their opinion on recent traffic surveys conducted as part of a Singleton bypass study.
And these surveys, according to RMS officers, show about half the traffic on the New England Highway travelling through Belford turns onto the Golden Highway during the morning peak.
However, local views on the subject overwhelmingly suggest the opening of the Hunter Expressway mid next year will see a big jump in traffic volumes flowing along George Street, Singleton, and then through town to McDougalls Hill on its way north in the morning and south in the afternoon.
The expressway from Sydney will end at Belford and congestion now found at Branxton on a daily basis will find a new home in Singleton, locals believe.
Anyone who is regular traveller on the New England Highway can attest to problems already encountered in Singleton at peak times – 5.30am to 8.30am and 2.30pm to 6pm.
With traffic volumes expected to increase on the New England Highway thanks to the expressway there is little doubt Singleton will become one big bottleneck from Kelso Street through to Magpie Street at McDougalls Hill.
With only 12 months left before the opening of the expressway many residents and road users would be looking for some planning to be underway to alleviate the expected congestion including perhaps clearways on George Street and restrictions on right hand turns along the same street.
Local businessman Peter Eason described the RMS statement as a very poor response to a major problem.
“The traffic through Singleton is building and will continue to do so not only because of the opening of the Hunter Expressway but also the growth in mining activity to our north,” he said.
“And a Singleton by-pass is years away but we need immediate action from getting more people who work in the area living in Singleton through to looking at traffic solution for George Street.
“A start would be doing something about the right hand turn from south bound traffic into Castlereagh Street – it’s headache now.”
A few years ago Mr Eason proposed the building of an access road to Singleton Heights turning left off the New England Highway at McDougalls Hill and leading to the back of the Pinnacle.
“This road would get all the Heights traffic off the highway before the railway underpass and the Bridgeman Road intersection with the highway,” Mr Eason said.
“Also traffic going to Glendon and Gresford could be diverted along this road – I believe it could be a real solution to the problem and it could be done in a reasonable time frame.”
Traffic congestion is impacting on more than just those attempting to get to and from work.
OurCare Services provides transport for aged, frail and those with a disability.
The organisation’s management committee president, Barry Bartrop said his drivers were already having great difficulty meeting appointments when they were picking up clients due to the traffic congestion.
“At peak times getting around town is extremely difficult and with our volunteer drivers taking patients to out of town appointments they have to leave so much earlier to get there on time,” he said.
Singleton Council’s acting director assets and facilities Alan Fletcher said the traffic problem on the highway through Singleton was why council had resolved to have a by-pass built.
“The highway fails due to peak hour traffic and the concentration of traffic once the expressway opens is likely to become worse,” he said.
Mr Fletcher said the pre-feasibility study for the by-pass was progressing well.
Member for Upper Hunter George Souris said once the pre-feasibility was completed it would lead to an application for funds from the federal government to fund a full feasibility study.
“It is my often expressed belief and desire that Singleton should have a by-pass to accommodate the increased traffic that will flow from the expressway, traffic that is already beyond full capacity at the morning and evening peak through traffic times,” Mr Souris said.