Federal Assistant Infrastructure Minister Jamie Briggs and NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay today announced early work on the $3 billion NorthConnex project would start in February.
“After more than a decade on the books in NSW, this vital project to build twin nine-kilometre tolled tunnels under Pennant Hills Road now has the green light with planning approval,” Mr Briggs said.
“It is a vital infrastructure project for supporting jobs and the economy in NSW and when complete, will form part of the National Highway route.
“NorthConnex will link the M1 Pacific Motorway at Wahroonga to the M2 Motorway at the Pennant Hills Road interchange at West Pennant Hills.
“NorthConnex will provide wide ranging benefits for the community including improvements to local air quality and road safety, with around 5000 fewer heavy vehicles on Pennant Hills Road each day.
“After a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and extensive community consultation, we can start work on this project which will improve travel times, remove trucks from residential roads and boost the NSW economy.
“Many residents have visited the community drop-in centre based on Pennant Hills Road since it opened in July last year to speak directly with the project team.
“The tunnels are expected to save up to 15 minutes of travel time compared to using Pennant Hills Road, where there are around 360 incidents each year impacting traffic.
“Motorists using NorthConnex will bypass 21 sets of traffic lights and it will provide an alternative route to the Pacific Highway which has 40 sets of traffic lights,” Mr Briggs said.
“In July 2012 we announced an unsolicited proposal had been submitted to develop and deliver the project and pending the signing of the contracts, we will be in a position to start early work in February,” Mr Gay said.
“Every resident who lives around NorthConnex and every motorist in NSW can be reassured, there will be unprecedented safeguards in place once its opens to traffic.
“The planning approval includes new safeguards not seen on any project in the state’s history including the Lane Cove Tunnel.
“The conditions of approval include a visibility standard which has never existed in NSW before.
“NorthConnex will operate in line with world’s best standards and can be reassessed by the Department of Planning every 5 years.
“The Secretary of the Department of Planning has new powers to intervene if the air quality levels reported live and made publicly available, exceed limits to the conditions of approval.
“We have modelled conservatively and we are very confident we have the mix right for the operation of the tunnel for the local community.
“We will also install air quality monitoring stations which will operate 24 hours a day before and after the tunnel opens, with those results also publicly available.
“Another great win for the community is the restriction of heavy vehicle trucks outside normal working hours removing spoil from the construction site to major roads only.
“The community will be kept informed and there will be further opportunities for input as the project progresses.
“Given the size of the project the EIS was placed on public display for an extended 60 day period and valuable feedback was received from government departments, local councils, interest groups and the community.
“I thank the community for engaging with our team and with the process. Some key changes have been made to the project to respond directly to community feedback.
“After the EIS process we made some adjustments to the project to take the community’s feedback into account, including raising the height of the outlets by five metres.
“Today’s announcement follows a rigorous consultation process including community updates to more than 75,000 people, six information sessions and more than 1400 letters,” Mr Gay said.