TOURIST operators are hoping the state government approves funding for significant improvements to Hermitage Road.
Last month, the 60 businesses in the Around Hermitage Association and Singleton Council welcomed the announcement by the government that the upgrade of Hermitage Road, intersection of Hermitage and Broke Road and installation of tourist facilities had been shortlisted for funding under the Resources For Regions program.
Council submitted a joint application with Cessnock City Council for $16.734 million to upgrade Hermitage Road, the intersection of Hermitage and
Broke roads and the installation of tourist facilities, including signage, rest areas, lighting and construction of an on-road cycleway connecting the Hunter Expressway/New England Highway with Broke Road.
Around Hermitage Association president Vicci Lashmore-Smith said the organisation was pleased the project had made the short list and was now hoping it would get the final tick of approval.
The association members operate cellar doors, restaurants and accommodation facilities on Hermitage, Old North, Broke and Deasys roads and in the Sweetwater Estate.
“You don’t know how many times we are asked how far we are from Pokolbin when in fact we are in Pokolbin,” she said.
New signage would be particularly helpful as people often turn from Broke Road into Hermitage Road and think they have taken the wrong way, Ms Lashmore-Smith explained.
“We want the visitors to travel all the way long Hermitage Road and through the other roads in the district and enjoy everything the region has to offer,” she said.
Since the opening of the Hunter Expressway, visitor access to Hermitage Road has greatly improved, especially for those coming from Sydney who can travel directly onto the road from the expressway then the New England Highway.
Ms Lashmore-Smith said part of the project included the sealing of the Cessnock Council section of Old North Road.
“That means visitors can then take Wine Country Drive directly from the expressway and then turn onto Old North Road and travel on a safe sealed road – not the dangerous dirt track that currently exists,” she said.
Hunter Valley Wine Tourism Association general manager Gus Maher said the proposal put forward by Singleton Council was fantastic.
“It wasn’t that long ago that Hermitage Road was a dirt track and its upgrade was based on increased tourist infrastructure in the district,” he said.
“To continue the infrastructure growth we need to improve the roads and other facilities.”
Mr Maher was particularly enthusiastic about the construction of a cycleway, saying people are always looking for something different and eco-friendly and it would be a real asset to the district.