The Milton community, concerned over last minute opposition to the building of the long-awaited Milton-Ulladulla Bypass, is gearing up to fight back against calls for the project to be delayed or even canceled.
A residents' group says State Liberal Members of Parliament Shelley Hancock and Andrew Constance, have led calls, echoed by the Federal member for Gilmore, Labor's Fiona Phillips, for a "back to the drawing board" approach to the project.
Many local residents fear if successful, these calls could see the bypass set back three to five years or more.
The suggestion the half billion-dollar project, more than 20 years in the making, should be shelved comes in response to a high energy campaign by Burrill Lake residents, supported by some local community and business leaders, who are concerned about possible impacts on the suburb when the bypass is integrated with the existing highway at Canberra Crescent, just north of the lake.
"While Milton people empathise with Burrill Lake residents who are concerned about possible highway changes there, we desperately need this project to go ahead without further delay," said Milton Forum Secretary Phil Bradshaw.
"With more than 30,000 residents in the corridor from Conjola in the north to Burrill and beyond who will benefit from the new road, it makes no sense to allow a handful of people in a suburb that is outside of the bypass route to bring it to a halt, especially when there is not even a firm proposal to protest," Mr Bradshaw added. Transport for NSW has said it will publish its plans for the Canberra Crescent connection early in 2022.
Mr Bradshaw said while some of the claims about possible highway changes through Burrill are fanciful at best, there is nothing imaginary about the amount of post COVID lockdown holiday traffic joining with a rising day-to-day vehicle count in recent weeks that have been made even worse by delays from a new traffic light installation in the centre of Milton.
"We are already seeing tailbacks to the north and south of the village while a landslide just outside Milton this month brought everything to a complete halt," said local resident Carmel Timmins.
"We need the bypass as soon as possible to relieve the gridlock and provide us with an alternative route for similar emergencies such as the bush fires which caused massive traffic problems two years ago."
Forum members have expressed surprise and frustration at the calls for a re-appraisal of the bypass plans, as neither the politicians nor business leaders supporting those calls have consulted the people who will be most affected by any delay.
"The politicians and others demanding delays have no idea what day to day life is like for people living and working here at peak holiday times," said Milton businessman Gavin Hart.
"Traffic can be stalled from Conjola to Dolphin "Point for hours at a time, adding 45 to 60 minutes to journey times across the district.
"This is a terrific extra cost for any person who has to travel during normal working hours or for parents trying to get kids from school and take them to other activities."
At the group's first face to face meeting late last week, the Milton Forum agreed members will contact those politicians seeking to derail the project as well as others with an interest in the project such as NSW Roads Minister Paul Toole.
They will be pointing out that the vast majority of the district's residents favour the bypass going ahead now. Members will also contact Transport for NSW to express support for the proposed route.
The Milton Forum is a Shoalhaven City Council community consultative body (CCB) with membership drawn from the 2538 postcode around Milton, as well nearby communities such as Little Forest and Fisherman's Paradise.