Op-Ed: Making headway on motorway - NorthConnex will cut travel time

Opinion Piece

PFO-004/2016

04 October 2016

By 2019, the ‘missing link’ between the M1 and M2 will be completed – below ground – by what will be northern Sydney’s most important new road link - NorthConnex.

The NorthConnex motorway will comprise twin road tunnels and complete a 9 kilometre, motorway-grade bypass of Sydney’s CBD.

The tunnels will have two lanes in each direction and will have capacity to carry more than 100,000 vehicles per day or 50,000 vehicles in each direction. Importantly, they will be built with capacity to upgrade to three lanes as traffic volumes increase.

This will not only deliver significant economic benefits; it will also bring welcome relief to motorists who are made to endure the Pennant Hills Road corridor as part of their daily commute.

NorthConnex will take up to 5,000 heavy vehicles a day off Pennant Hills Road – with clear benefits for local air quality, amenity and public transport reliability along the corridor.

Once complete, you’ll be able to drive from Newcastle to Canberra without encountering a single set of traffic lights. You’ll be able to bypass 21 sets of traffic lights along Pennant Hills Road, providing safer and more reliable travel conditions.

The project will also provide motorists with an alternate route to the M1 Pacific Motorway to the Sydney CBD, which will avoid 40 sets of traffic lights.

As the Member for Bradfield, I certainly appreciate the benefits of a much smoother traffic flow for the people of northern Sydney, and for our neighbours in the Central Coast region.

The project will reduce travel times by up to 15 minutes, which will help local and interstate freight operators transport their goods to domestic and international markets quickly.

NorthConnex will create around 8,700 jobs during construction – including many highly skilled jobs ¬ ¬– and will inject around $4 billion into New South Wales economy.

I am aware that the project has raised environmental concerns, some of which have been voiced in the NSBA. However, air quality has been extensively assessed throughout the project’s assessment process.

The tunnel ventilation system will be designed and operated to meet stringent in-tunnel, local and regional air quality criteria imposed by the environmental approvals for the project.

Experience from other motorway tunnels and studies have confirmed that emissions from ventilation outlets have a negligible impact on local and regional air quality.

It is also clear that the overall environmental impact of a project of the scale of NorthConnex will be minimised by developing it underground.

Moreover, the project incorporates $31 million for the revitalisation of the Hornsby Quarry site as an accessible recreation area using the spoil from tunnelling.

This is a good example of how with some creative thinking, the benefits of a transport infrastructure project can be extended to meet a broader range of urban needs.

The Turnbull Government is contributing $412 million to the NorthConnex project, matched dollar for dollar by the NSW Government. This includes $7.3 million towards the cost of revitalising the Hornsby Quarry site.

However, the bulk of the $3 billion project cost is being met by the private sector. This private sector involvement is essential given pressures on government budgets.

Early construction work commenced on the project in February 2015, and major works started in June 2015. Tunnel excavations started in January this year and tunnelling with road headers commenced in May.

Seven of the 19 road headers to be used throughout the project are now in operation – they are making significant headway in the tunnelling works. NorthConnex will be a major addition to Sydney’s economic development and its evolution as a sustainable city – it is a project due to transform commuting in Sydney’s northern suburbs.

The article was originally published here: northsba.com.au/other/editors-picks/item/1477-making-headway-on-motorway