Video: Biggest transport project in Australia to begin, NSW Government
The 33km WestConnex freeway will be completed by 2023 and cost between $11bn and $11.5bn, many billions of dollars less than the previously cited figure of $13-$15bn. The project will be completed in stages, starting with the existing M4 freeway between Parramatta and Strathfield (2017), followed by the M4 East to the City West Link at Haberfield (2019), then the M5 East widening (2020), and finally the M4 South linking up the two (2023).
Once completed, it will link up the M4 and M5 via the airport, but not provide a direct link to the Sydney CBD. This link had been made a requirement of both major parties for federal funding of WestConnex prior to the previous election, and it remains to be seen whether the incoming Abbott Government will provide its promised $1.5bn of funding without a direct link to the CBD (it may decide that the City West Link provides such a link – something that the previous government did not). This lack of such a link has been supported in the past by this blog, as roads are a poor way of providing access to the CBD but do provide good access for dispersed trips, which will account for 60% of trips made on the M4 East according to Roads Minister Duncan Gay.
Another major benefit of WestConnex will be the urban renewal that its construction will facilitate. By removing car traffic from surface streets, traffic can be calmed through lower speed limits, wider footpaths, bus lanes, bike paths, etc. This in turn can be the catalyst for higher housing densities and active streets, with shops, cafes, and restaurants.
WestConnex has been opposed by groups like The Greens, who have called on the $3.3bn of government funding to instead be spent on light rail, and Eco Transit, who have put forward their own proposed public transport alternative to reduce congestion.