When NSW Premier MP Gladys Berejiklian confirmed a tunnel will be made to ease congestion on the Northern Beaches and North Shore, it was met with cynicism.
Not least because it came the day after the Liberal Party announced its candidates for the April 8 by-elections, with former deputy Manly mayor James Griffin and Felicity Wilson (North Shore seat) conveniently planted at either side of the Spit Bridge.
In the current plans, the $3 billion Beaches Link Tunnel will have branches starting at both the Wakehurst Parkway and Burnt Bridge Creek Deviation that will merge to cross under Middle Harbour and Northbridge.
From Northbridge, a southerly tunnel will pass under Naremburn to connect with the Warringah Freeway and the Western Harbour Tunnel. Also from Northbridge, a westerly tunnel passes under Willoughby South and through Artarmon to connect with the Gore Hill Freeway and Lane Cove Tunnel. The route bypasses murderous Military Road and Spit Bridge, which is Australia's fifth most clogged arterial road, where vehicles travel an average speed of just 12 kilometres.
Initial geotechnical work to establish the best route has commenced, but residents are concerned the project will swallow up recreational parks.
Civil engineer Peter Egan tells Peninsula Living, "It appears they've drawn the 18km underground motorway from park to park, to use them as construction sites. Some of them under risk include Balgowlah Golf Club, Barenbali Park in Seaforth, Seaforth Oval, Wakehurst Golf Club and potentially even Warringah Golf Club. This is a concern," he states.
“We don't want our parks and golf clubs taken over for permanent use by the motorway. Even the temporary use for some years is a very big disruption to the local community. We’re not exactly blessed with much parkland and ovals relative to the population.”
Mr Egan has presented an alternative route to local MPs, which relies more on Roads and Maritime Services (HMS) land for construction sites.
He says a better plan is a more direct Beaches Link route to the Warringah Freeway at Cammeray, and a separate Western Harbour Tunnel that follows the previous Victoria Rd alignment to the M2 via Lane Cove.
“There is a better solution and t hope the council argues for the case,” he adds. "On the more westerly harbour crossing, there'll be a lot less traffic needing to go to through Neutral Bay. They're introducing the Beaches Link Tunnel and the Western Harbour Tunnel into the same one kilometre-long bit of space from Miller St to Falcon St.
“It's too complex, too crowded and will be a source of accidents and delays.”
The president of the Warringah Golf Club, Scott Campbell, says the use of golf clubs and ovals as construction sites would be 13 massive blow for the area".
“Look at what happened to Kogarah Golf Club - it was severely affected by the location of the construction site by the twin tunnels in the new MS link, which is part of the WestConnex motorway project - it was reduced from 19 holes to nine during the construction.
“It would be a massive revenue loss, especially for Balgowlah, which only has a nine-hole course. It would most likely have to close down. And if they were to take over some sporting fields, they just couldn't - they are already in such high demand.
“I don't know what the answer is, but it's certainly not taking over golf courses and sporting fields.”
The NRMA wants to fast track the 2019 timeline to begin construction but local MPs - including Independent Manly candidate Kathryn Ridge, and Mosman mayor Peter Abelson - believe the timing of the tunnel's announcement was a political ploy to curry Liberal favour.
"It came completely out of the blue,” Mr Abelson tells Peninsula Living. “There had been no discussions - we hadn't seen a preliminary business plan and our officers in council had not been asked to discuss it. Mr Abelson supports the construction as “it will be an appropriate piece of infrastructure linking to the M2 and WestConnex. I’d like it within 10 years rather than 30 - and rather than being announced at every four-year election…”
Because the project is in the concept design stage, a spokesperson for RMS says it’s too early to confirm the location of construction sites, but insists: “A key objective is to minimise any project impacts on local communities during construction and operation."