A state government announcement of an 11km tunnel between Blackheath and Mount Victoria yesterday [Monday May 3] has been condemned by Blue Mountains City Council.
Blue Mountains Mayor Mark Greenhill, said: "They are not spending this amount of money for the occasional weekend traffic. Their own documents are clear that this is about introducing new and much bigger trucks to the Blue Mountains"
He said the tunnel would be a massive attraction for "25 metre B-Double and 30 metre fixed rig trucks that currently can't legally use the highway over the Blue Mountains".
"We are talking about the giants we see on major highways across Australia, hurtling through Blue Mountains towns and villages.
"With no road improvements of any real note from Medlow Bath down, this will impact the road safety and quality of life of the majority of mountains residents. It will also certainly not decrease congestion.
"Noise will increase. People will be sharing the roads with an increased number of much larger trucks," the mayor said.
The government has said the 11-kilometre tunnel between Blackheath and Mt Victoria would be built to ease congestion for commuters and holidaymakers. The proposal would be part of the Great Western Highway upgrade and is expected to cost about $8 billion.
At a council meeting in October last year, council resolved to "request that no construction commence on the Great Western Highway duplication until a comprehensive analysis, including socio economic and environmental impacts, is undertaken for an integrated transport approach to freight and passenger movements between the Central West and the coast, so that Blue Mountains road and rail infrastructure is considered as part of the wider state and interstate transport network".
Council also noted trucks carrying dangerous goods would use the existing highway alignment as legislation prohibits these vehicles from travelling in tunnels in NSW.
A council spokeswoman said council has been a strong advocate for increasing freight on the rail line and ensuring that the Great Western Highway is safe and quiet. It has implemented a road safety program from the Heavy Vehicle Drive Neighbourly agreement to manage the increase in freight seen on the highway, ensuring respectful driver behaviour.
Council said it is committed to working with Transport for NSW to ensure any highway upgrade preserves local values and amenity, and works through a considered design appropriate for the World Heritage setting.