There’s a rumour about town that there’s going to be a cricket game on the old Macksville Bridge tonight.
Because today, after years of patience, the first 14 kilometres of the 20-kilometre Warrell Creek to Nambucca Heads section of the Pacific Highway upgrade has opened to dual-carriageway traffic—leaving Macksville footloose and fancy free.
The opening is especially welcome, arriving a week before Santa and the usual convoys of holiday traffic do.
“Today’s opening could not be more timely, with Christmas fast approaching and Macksville being a notorious bottleneck during this time of year,” Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester said Chester said.
“Families on their Christmas holidays will no longer be stuck in traffic for hours in the middle of Macksville, giving them time to enjoy their break.”
WATCH: The official opening
Premier Gladys Berejiklian today joined Roads Minister and Member for Oxley Melinda Pavey, Federal Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker and the Hughes family at the apex of the new Phillip Hughes bridge to cut the ribbon.
“Can I just say, ‘Welcome to the Nambucca, Premier!’,” Mrs Pavey said.
The Premier acknowledged the toll that the old highway had had on the community.
“For too long this patch of Pacific Highway was a treacherous piece of road,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“This new section of the Pacific Highway is part of an $830 million upgrade which includes a four lane divided road, 15 bridges, new interchanges at Warrell Creek and Bald Hill Road and access ramps at North Macksville.
“And I think this bridge is a fitting tribute to an Aussie legend.”
For the Hughes family, it was a very emotional moment.
“This just means the world to us, and he would have just loved this, I know it,” Phillip’s sister, Megan said.
“From up here you can see one of his farms, our house, and you can see the playing fields at Thistle Park that he used to love to play in,”, Phillip’s father, Greg said.
WATCH: Mel and Jess drive the bypass for the first time.
Pacifico workers lined the hill at the northern compound and cheered as the first cars on the new highway came into view at just after 3pm this afternoon.
There was a deafening moment of honks as the drivers honoured the incredible effort that those workers have put in over the past few months to get this project over the line in time for Christmas.
The new stretch of highway enables drivers to get between the Scotts Head turnoff and the new Nambucca servo in under ten minutes, driving within the legal speed limit.
Approximately 80 per cent of the 657-kilometre Pacific Highway upgrade is now complete between Hexham, north of Newcastle, and the Queensland border.
Attention will now turn to the 155 kilometre Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade’s 2020 due date, after Warrell Creek of course.