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State reveals tunnel options for highway to bypass Blue Mountains town

Regional Roads Minister Paul Toole said a tunnel under Blackheath would preserve the town’s character and heritage, while ensuring better journeys for motorists.

“This is a complex project and we wanted to work with the people who know Blackheath best to ensure we identified the best options,” he said. “This is a big step in the right direction.”

But Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill said the latest plans did nothing to allay concerns that the road upgrade would severely impact the local area.

The upgrade of the Great Western Highway is intended to improve safety and remove congestion from Blue Mountains towns such as Blackheath.

The upgrade of the Great Western Highway is intended to improve safety and remove congestion from Blue Mountains towns such as Blackheath.
Credit:Wolter Peeters

“It is just about introducing 25-metre B-doubles and 30-metre fixed rig trucks to the Blue Mountains. The state government’s own planning documents say that is what this enables,” he said.

“It will severely damage the amenity of Blackheath … [and] it will do nothing for the other Blue Mountains towns.”

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Cr Greenhill said the other more controversial options that had been ditched were merely “stalking horses” for what the government actually intended to do.

The NSW government has committed $2.5 billion to upgrade the Great Western Highway between Katoomba and Lithgow and provide two lanes each way.

However, Mr Toole said the project would cost more and his government would be talking to the Commonwealth about it chipping in money.

“We know it’s going to cost more, which is why we do projects like this in stages,” he said.

“What we’re going to do now is we’ll look at the tunnel designs, the length of them and also look at the exact alignment.”

A spokesman for Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the Commonwealth would consider a request for funding in the event that the state prioritised the delivery of duplication works to the Great Western Highway.

If it gains approval, construction is expected to take about four years.

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