“This is a historical heritage project that will provide safer and more efficient travel for locals, tourists and freight travel between the Central West and the East Coast,” he said.
“The tunnel will reduce congestion and improve safety for local residents, tourists and freight carriers.”
The NSW government has already indicated it wants Commonwealth funding for the Blue Mountains tunnel. The highway also includes doubling between Katoomba and Blackheath, with early works beginning in 2023.
The federal government pledged $2 billion last year to upgrade the Great Western Highway. A senior NSW government source said that although the benefit-cost ratio of the project was well below 1, it would be difficult to lift the highway as there weren’t many viable alternative routes.
Falinski said he was open to completing both projects but wanted the state government to prioritize the long-praised Northern Beaches Link.
“I think it’s really important that we connect regions and major urban centers much better…where’s the biggest productivity gain you can get when it comes to investing in road transport? The northern beaches stick out like a sore thumb every time,” he said.
He also added that the state government’s toll relief programs, such as providing free car registration to motorists who pay more than $1,400 in tolls a year, have been of great help.
the Herald revealed earlier this year that the Perrottet government would push back a number of major infrastructure projects amid rising costs and labor pressures exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Projects without an investment decision, including the Beaches Link, are among the projects most likely to be pushed back.
Falinski said he understood the pressures the state government faced during a construction boom on Australia’s east coast, adding that he had been assured by state counterparts that the Beaches Link would be first off the drawing board once conditions improved.
“At the moment the biggest concern here is that we are all waiting for the start,” he said of the road project.