The New South Wales Government has selected the 11-kilometre toll-free tunnel from Blackheath to Little Hartley as the preferred route for the Blue Mountains tunnel, following a feasibility analysis and investigation process.
The tunnel will form a central component of the Great Western Highway upgrade between Katoomba and Lithgow. Together the Federal and NSW governments are investing $2.5 billion towards upgrading the Great Western Highway between Katoomba and Blackheath, and between Little Hartley and Lithgow, respectively.
The Great Western Highway Upgrade will reduce congestion, deliver safer, more efficient and reliable journeys for those travelling in, around and through the Blue Mountains, and better connect communities in the Central West.
The tunnel project will aim to help improve the economic development, productivity and accessibility in and through the Blue Mountains, Central West and Orana regions. The proposed central tunnel would be Australia’s longest road tunnel.
The Blackheath to Little Hartley tunnel design features dual carriageways for both eastbound and westbound motorists in separate twin tunnels and a gentler gradient to cut travel times and improve freight efficiencies.
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.
Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Sam Farraway said the Blue Mountains tunnel would deliver a raft of benefits that would transform the connection between Sydney and western NSW.
“It will improve the resilience of the state’s major road corridor across the Blue Mountains during traffic incidents and natural disasters and will be built to accommodate future population growth west of the Blue Mountains,” 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.”
Transport for NSW will continue its program of consultation with Blue Mountains and Central West communities and the Wiradjuri, Dharug and Gundungurra communities through a series of online and face-to-face information sessions about the tunnel project in coming weeks.
The Environmental Impact Assessment for the Blackheath to Little Hartley tunnel will go on exhibition later this year.
Construction on the tunnel is slated to start in 2024.