Life is about to change for the people of Tibooburra in Far West NSW as the final piece of bitumen is laid on the Silver City Highway, connecting the Corner Country town to the city of Broken Hill.
Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole said it was a significant milestone for the NSW Government's $145 million project to seal the last dirt roads in the NSW highway network, which will benefit freight operators, open up tourism in the region, and be a game changer for locals.
"The transformation of the Silver City Highway between Broken Hill and Tibooburra from dirt road to a bitumen seal highway is a real win for the communities it connects and the freight companies it serves," Mr Toole said.
"This highway isn't just a road - it's a lifeline. Until now, a lot of experiences have centred around flat tyres from corrugations, getting bogged in bulldust or mud, being stuck at home or cut off from attending school or visiting the local shops and medical services after it has rained.
"The sealing of this section of highway will ensure fewer highway closures, provide greater economic opportunities for local and interstate businesses and make trips faster, smoother and safer."
Tibooburra Hotel owner and local grazier Tracey Hotchin said the completion of the sealing of the road from Broken Hill to Tibooburra was a life-changing event.
"My grandfather was interviewed by the ABC in 1974 about sealing the Silver City Highway," Ms Hotchin said.
"In that interview he said he definitely wouldn't see the highway sealed, neither would his kids. But he hoped his grandkids would - which I now will."
Mr Toole said more than 260,000 tonnes of gravel had gone into the sealing of this section of the highway as well as supporting 150 jobs equating to 10,000 hours worked.
"The sealing of the highway has been no small feat," Mr Toole said.
"The Transport for NSW team has worked under unique conditions since the project commenced October 2018 living in caravans away from their families for days on end."
Second year civil construction apprentice Tayla Doubtfire, who has worked on the project for 18 months, said that while conditions have been tough, there was a real sense of comradery and achievement within the team.
"It's just you and the people you work with. You go in on Monday, get set up and camp on site. It gets very, very hot and very, very dry and very dusty, not to mention freezing cold in the winter," Ms Doubtfire said.
The final seal of 50 kilometres of the Silver City Highway from Tibooburra to the Queensland border has now commenced.
Mr Toole said the program to seal the $145 million Silver City and Cobb Highways was currently six months ahead of schedule.