"It's been in the too hard basket for too long."
That was the key message from acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack and Minister for Transport and Bathurst MP Paul Toole at the sight of a multi-billion dollar Great Western Highway project on Monday, June 14.
Standing in Little Hartley at Coxs River Road with the Great Western Highway in the background, Paul Toole was beaming with pride.
"For a long period of time people have said crossing the Blue Mountains is too hard, that's why it is called the Great Dividing Range," he said.
"Two years ago the NSW Government put $2.03 billion on the table, to duplicate the road from Lithgow to Katoomba and now the Federal Government has announced $2.03 billion in the budget for the Eastern and Western side of the duplication that is going to take place here in Little Hartley and Medlow Bath."
Mr Toole said that in the next month they should start seeing the designs for the Coxs River Road section as well as Medlow Bath, and it couldn't come sooner.
"Today is a classic example, you can see the cars building up on the highway, and this happens every weekend and frequently through the week," he said.
"Last June long weekend there were 30 breakdowns which meant traffic came to a crawl, and these dual lanes will mean smoother access for everyone."
Mr Toole said the government was still undertaking studies about creating an 11 kilometre tunnel through the mountains.
"We are hoping construction on these sections of road can take place next year, with improved intersections, widening of roads, two lanes in both directions and improved safety," he said.
Mr Toole said it would be a five to six year long project and would see over 3900 jobs created for the community.
"The dual lane is critical, we are the last road into Sydney that doesn't have a dual carriage way so it is vital we get this done," he said.
Director for Transport NSW Alistair Lunn said residents could finally enjoy doing 100 kilometres per hour along the Great Western Highway once complete.
"There will be no changing of speed zones along that line," he said.
Mr Lunn also said that while some small disruptions may occur during the building of this project, they would be working with residents to make sure people weren't badly affected.
Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack said this is the greatest infrastructure roll out happening at the present time.
"Those people who live in the Central West or like to visit the Central West are going to be the big beneficiaries of this great project," he said.
"You get infrastructure that will support 3900 jobs and that's only the Eastern and Western corridors of the great Western Highway...but more importantly, it is going to save lives.
"Andrew Gee has advocated for it, he comes to my door to make sure we get funding for the Central West and he has supported this project for a long time and he will go on supporting it."
Mr McCormack said by mid 2026 they want to see the benefits of this investment.
"We want to see this particular road network be the best it can be, so I'm pleased to be partnering with NSW on this project."
Member for Calare Andrew Gee said the project will begin between Katoomba and Blackheath and between Little Hartley and Lithgow.
Mr Gee, also the Minster for Decentralisation and Regional Education, said the upgrades will help alleviate increasing congestion issues and are critical to securing the continued growth and prosperity of the Central West region.
He highlighted the COVID-19 pandemic as one major factor in congestion, with an increasing number of people moving or travelling west of the Blue Mountains as a result.
"Since the onset of the pandemic there has been a real awakening by people in the city as to what lies over the Great Dividing Range, or sandstone curtain as we like to call it," he said.
"This movement from the city is bigger than the gold rush and it looks set to continue as Sydney expands westward and the new Western Sydney International Airport takes shape.
"With more and more people crossing the mountains, congestion will only worsen."
Mr Gee pointed to the Easter long weekend as an example of congestion, although the Bells Line of Road's closure due to flood damage also played a large role in exacerbating that highway traffic.
"Over the Easter holidays it took both my daughters over nine hours to get to Orange from Sydney, many from our region have recent horror stories like this," he said.
"Easing congestion, making this road safer and reducing travel times is why the Australian Government has invested in the East and West sections, between Katoomba and Lithgow, which will be the first to kick off with designs to be released to the community in coming weeks. This means motorists will benefit sooner."
Member of The Nationals the honourable Sam Farraway said it was a long time coming.
"We have been able to bring the community on board and I applaud Paul Toole for all the work behind the scenes he has done to make this a reality," he said.
"We want to make the Western Highway great again, and this is going to be legacy infrastructure and our next big nation building project."
Member of the New South Wales Legislative Council Shane Mallard, who is a local Blue Mountains resident, said this was the last missing link into Sydney.
"When there is a public holiday, businesses in Blackheath and Mount Victoria don't open because they know staff won't be able to get to or from work, they know the congestion isn't worth it," he said.
"This will help so many people and businesses and it will be much safer and reduce death and accidents along our road.
"People are worried about visitation to the area, visitation won't stop, it will continue and it will increase, but this road upgrade will make it safer for all.
"It is a win-win situation."