Construction will start on Sydney's next motorway in about 18 months, with Premier Barry O'Farrell to release more detailed plans today for the WestConnex motorway, a series of new roads and tunnels largely under the inner west of Sydney.
As revealed by Fairfax Media a month ago, the first segments of the $10 billion to $13 billion project to be built will be a widened M4 Motorway between Parramatta and Concord and a motorway tunnel between Concord and the City West Link at Ashfield, with three lanes in each direction.
Work will start on these sections of the motorway in early to mid-2015.
The entire WestConnex motorway, which will eventually be 33 kilometres of toll road, is expected to be finished in 2023.
The motorway will be tolled in the same manner as the M7, with motorists to be charged depending on how far they drive. There will be a cap of about $7.70 a trip.
Work on widening the existing M4 from three lanes to four will be finished in about early 2017, the government says. At this point motorists will have to start paying to drive on the road, which is currently not tolled.
Work on the tunnel from the existing M4 to Ashfield and the City West Link is expected to be finished by 2019. Another M5 East Tunnel between Beverly Hills and St Peters is slated to be built between 2016 and 2020, while a tunnel between Haberfield and St Peters is said to start in 2018, to be finished in 2023.
It is not clear what will happen when motorists driving on the three-lane WestConnex tunnel to Ashfield arrive at the two-lane City West Link.
Mr O’Farrell’s government has set aside $1.8 billion for the motorway, raised by privatising Sydney’s Port Botany. The new federal Tony Abbott government has also pledged $1.5 billion for the road, to be spent over the next three years.
Both Mr O’Farrell and Mr Abbott, who will join the Premier at an announcement on Friday, committed to the project before detailed route planning or patronage studies had been completed.
Even on Friday, Mr O’Farrell is not expected to release the entire business case for the project, which has been worked on by officials from Roads and Maritime Services, but also consultants from Macquarie Bank and construction giants Leighton Holdings as well as other private advisers.
The Premier will instead release a summary of the business case, claiming the whole document to be “commercial in confidence”.
The project will also include an “urban revitalisation package" to improve the surface of Parramatta Road, under which the tunnel between Concord and Ashfield will be built.
"WestConnex is a game-changer for Sydney - it will save motorists time by making travel between Sydney's west and the east easier," Mr O'Farrell said in a press release.
Mr Abbott said: "I want building the roads of the 21st century to be a hallmark of my government and getting cracking on WestConnex was a solemn commitment that I made to the people of Western Sydney.”