Early works to the multi-billion dollar Western Harbour Tunnel will start this month after the NSW government awarded a $722 million contract to deliver the first stage of tunnelling.
The first 1.7 kilometres of tunnels will be built from Rozelle to Birchgrove, eventually linking the WestConnex motorway at the Rozelle Interchange to the Warringah Freeway at North Sydney.
“This is a critical milestone which will support hundreds of jobs and ensure significant benefits for drivers, including improved travel times and reduced congestion,” NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said.
The controversial Western Harbour Tunnel has already come under fire from communities in the Inner West who have raised concerns about the project’s environmental impact, including pollution of the Dawn Fraser Baths, threats to Sydney Harbour’s marine life, ventilation pollution, and tunnelling under highly valued heritage conservation areas.
“Locals in the inner west are living through the nightmare of WestConnex,” State Member for Balmain Jamie Parker said last year.
“Now they are being told that they will have to face another four years of noise, dust and disruption for a project that won’t even do what it says.”
The NSW government says that the new tunnel will reduce traffic on the Western Distributor by 35 per cent, the Harbour Tunnel by 20 per cent and the Harbour Bridge by 17 per cent.
“You’ll save up to 20 minutes in a journey from Sydney Olympic Park to North Sydney and up to 15 minutes from North Sydney to the airport at Mascot,” Minister for Metropolitan Roads Natalie Ward said.
Early works begin after former Inner West Mayor Rochelle Porteous told a parliamentary inquiry in September that the Western Harbour Tunnel would impact “dog walkers, fishers and swimmers, including users of Dawn Fraser Baths”, adding that the dredging of contaminated sediment from the harbour floor would result in damaging effects for the inner west community.
Earlier last year, Mr Parker said that measures to minimise the impact of contaminated sediment dredging “may not be sufficient to prevent plumes of contaminated sediments escaping to the harbour”. A Transport for NSW spokesperson told City Hub in March last year that even in the worst-case scenario, water quality at the Dawn Fraser Baths won’t be impacted.
In November, Inner West Council held a public meeting to voice the community’s key issues with the proposal, with residents flagging concerns with the consultation process and the adverse impacts that the project could bring to the area.
Construction for Western Harbour Tunnel is expected to be complete in 2027.