Following an in-depth feasibility analysis, the government of New South Wales (NSW) yesterday announced that an 11km-long, toll-free road tunnel from Blackheath to Little Hartley through the Blue Mountains is now the preferred option for that section of the Great Western Highway upgrade between Lithgow and Katoomba.
It would be Australia’s longest road tunnel, said NSW’s deputy premier and minister for regional NSW, Paul Toole, calling it a “history-making legacy project”.
“In May last year, we started investigating plans to join the two to create the longest road tunnel in the entire country and today we’re locking that plan in as the preferred option,” he said.
“This is a complex, ambitious plan but we’re on track for shovels to hit the ground on the east and west stages of the upgrade early next year because we’re getting on with the job of building a safer, stronger road network across all parts of the state.”
The tunnel will have separate tunnels for east- and westbound dual carriageways, with a gentler gradient to cut travel times.
Minister for regional transport and roads, Sam Farraway, said: “The straighter alignment will improve road safety through the mountains and the tunnel will help unlock the potential of western NSW, for the benefit of all residents and businesses in this important part of the state.
“Once the full upgrade to the Great Western Highway is complete, it is predicted to save motorists up to 30 minutes between Katoomba and Lithgow during busy periods.
It’s time to make the Western Highway Great again and that is exactly what this upgrade will do.”
Community consultations are ongoing and an environmental impact assessment for the tunnel will be published later this year.