Construction on the next stage of Sydney’s WestConnex project could begin within weeks after the NSW government approved a plan to build a “New M5” in the city’s inner-west.
The 9km tunnel will run between the existing M5 East at Kingsgrove and a new interchange at St Peters and is intended to reduce congestion and improve travel times, Planning Minister Rob Stokes says.
Local roads will be upgraded and a new green space will be created south of Sydney Park as part of the development, he said.
The WestConnex project has faced growing opposition from local councils, community groups and residents with thousands of submissions specifically lodged in response to the environmental impact statement for the second stage of the development.
On Thursday, several members of the WestCONnex Action Group also staged a protest outside the Department of Planning and Environment offices in Sydney.
Mr Stokes said the government would impose several strict environmental protections in direct response to the issues raised by the community.
These include building new and upgraded cycling and pedestrian pathways connecting existing open spaces, imposing strict air quality limits for the tunnel and ventilation facilities and a net increase in trees in the area as a result of the works.
The new tunnel would double capacity of the existing M5 East corridor, Roads Minister Duncan Gay said.
“For example, in 2021 travel times will be cut by up to 45 per cent for motorists travelling eastbound during the morning peak from Beverly Hills to Botany,” he said on Thursday.
Mr Gay said initial work on the tunnel project, which is due to open in 2019, could begin within weeks pending federal government approval.