18 March 2024

Kiama bypass changed the face of the countryside and eased the horrors of summer holiday traffic

| Jen White
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Aerial photo of Kiama.

An aerial view south towards Kiama, prior to construction of the Kiama bypass. The old alignment of the highway carried traffic over Spring Creek before veering east into Kiama. Kiama Cemetery is at the right, while the South Coast rail line is to the left. Photos: State of NSW (Transport for NSW).

These days the drive from Wollongong to Nowra is an easy run of about an hour, but 40 years ago it was a very different experience.

They were the days when you followed the single-lane Princes Highway through the Minnamurra bends and battled your way along Manning and Terralong streets through the Kiama shopping precinct.

It was a long, slow trip at the best of times, but during the busy summer holidays traffic could bank up for hours. Throw in a breakdown or an accident and a pleasant holiday became a horror trip home.

Travellers and residents alike were relieved when the first sod was turned on the Kiama bypass in December 1983. The 5.3-km deviation from Kiama Heights to North Kiama Drive was designed to relieve the serious traffic congestion in Kiama’s main shopping streets.

The project took four years to complete and involved construction of bridges over a railway siding, Spring Creek, Terralong Street and Bland Street, as well as a bridge to take Saddleback Mountain Road over the bypass.

READ ALSO Early Kiama settlers braved thick scrub to build homes and a thriving township

According to the Department of Main Roads (DMR), “the dual carriageway would result in vastly improved conditions for both through and local road users, with improved safety, less congestion and reduced travelling time.

“It enhanced the amenity of the local area and stimulated the tourist industry which was vital to the continued development of Kiama and other popular tourist resorts on the South Coast of NSW,” the DMR said.

By the time it opened to traffic in December 1987, the $20 million price tag had jumped to $27 million. The Kiama community still had to agitate for a similar bypass of North Kiama Downs, which took about 10 years due to its potential impact on the Minnamurra wetlands.

The $179 million North Kiama bypass was eventually opened on 26 November 2005.

Transport for NSW’s historical archive features a pictorial timeline of the construction of the Kiama bypass, showing how dramatically the countryside has changed in the past 40 years.

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