AUSTRALIA:More Tunnels Planned

December 11, 1998

AUSTRALIA:More Tunnels Planned

Originally published in issue 34 of Tollroads Newsletter, which came out in Dec 1998.



Facilities:Cross City Eastern Distributor Upper Yarra City Link

Locations:Sydney Melbourne Victroia NSW Australia

The tunnel is intended to take traffic off local streets in the central business district and tie together urban motorways on either side of the downtown. They are presently linked by the Cahill Expressway, a short elevated roadway atop a rail station just behind the ferry docks of Sydney Cove, an historic site where the first white settlers – convicts the subjects of transportation, to use that term correctly – put ashore in 1788. An Eastern Distributor roadway to the airport is presently under construction.

The new tunnel would improve access to the Eastern Distributor from the inner western suburbs and especially the Darling Harbor exhibition area.

The tunnel is proposed to be 2x2-lanes, with one direction of traffic built above the other in a double deck structure. It will be located under Park and William streets and extend 12 city blocks from Sussex St in the west to Palmer Street in the east. It will have to go underneath two underground rail lines. The tunnel is expected to carry 48k veh/day.

Sydney’s center like Manhattan is built on sandstone, which makes for easy, economical tunneling.

The state government puts the construction cost of the Cross-City tunnel at A$273m or about $180m ($36m/lane-km). It will be financed with a $1.30 (A$2) toll.

State Premier Bob Carr said it would “liberate the city from gridlock caused by the interaction of north-south and east-west traffic” and that it has “the potential to transform the heart of Australia’s greatest city.”

A bit of hyperbole there perhaps but the tunnel will certainly be a great convenience and will improve the central city area. And its sponsorship represents an enormous turnaround for a leftwing party which 15 to 20 years ago was saying no more highways should be built and selling off land reserved for future roads. Carr came to office promising to get rid of tolls and has sponsored several new toll projects. (Carr is an FDR and US history nut, and your editor spent a day driving him up to the Roosevelt estate at Hyde Park NY in 1981, well before he reached his current political eminence.)

A slightly longer (1.5km) tunnel with 3-lanes atop 3-lanes is currently under construction underneath Darlinghurst, an old inner suburb just southeast of the city center as part of the Eastern Distributor and Airport Motorway system. It is being built by investors led by Leighton construction and is supposed to be in operation to help traffic during the Olympic Games in mid-2000.

The Cross-City tunnel will not be begun until after the Olympic Games in mid-2000.

500-miles south in Australia’s second city, Melbourne, a tunnel under parklands in the upper Yarra Valley in Ringwood, Eltham and Templestowe on the northeast fringe is being considered in order to complete a peripheral ring road. A western and northern section is largely open, and an eastern section is close to construction leaving the missing link in the northeast. The area has been something of a bush retreat for potters, weavers, writers and others certain to protest strongly against surface highway plans. It is likely the new Upper Yarra tunnel would be financed by investors and tolled, unless there are major political changes in the state of Victoria.

Melbourne has 3-lane tunnels of 3.5km and 1.6km length well into construction to the south and southeast of the central business district as part of the investor-financed $1.5b City Link project that connects three radial motorways and provides new access to the city center. The longer tunnel goes under Burnley, an established inner suburb, and both tunnels go under famous gardens and riverfront where public reaction would prevent construction of exposed roadway.

A mile of inner city motorway in Perth in western Australia is being put underground with half of the cost to be recouped by sale of land. The 1.6km of 6-lane road, a northern bypass of the city center in the Northridge area is being built for $123m ($13m/lane-km), an estimated $61m more in shallow tunnel than an open trench would have cost, but the land above is expected to bring $30m, so net cost is only about $31m. Undergrounding made this gas tax financed project environmentally acceptable, according to WORLD HIGHWAYS mag. (Contact Roads Auth NSW 61 2 9230 2212, Vicroads 61 3 9854 2666)

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