The NSW government persists with its 1960s delusion that building more expressways will reduce traffic congestion.
The idea behind Northconnex is that a 9 kilometre road tunnel will be bored under Pennant Hills Road from the M2 junction to Wahroonga. It will have space for three lanes each way but initially will be used with two lanes each way plus a breakdown lane. It is intended to take truck traffic and some car traffic off Pennant Hills Road. There will be tolls - perhaps $7 per trip in 2019 for cars and $21 for trucks. Trucks will be coerced into the tunnel by a fine imposed on using Pennant Hills Road, excepting only oversize/dangerous goods and bona fide local access. Trucks will be timed; those driving non-stop from West Pennant Hills to Pearces Corner will be subject to the penalty.
However, building and operating such tunnels is very expensive. It is not clear that enough tolls will be collected to make the proposition profitable nor even solvent. Look what happened to (among others) the Lane Cove tunnel, the Cross-City Tunnel and Brisbane's Clem7 tunnel. In all of those cases, toll collections fell far short of projections. With Northconnex, construction costs will be about $3 billion, of which up to $405 million will be contributed by each of the NSW and federal governments. That leaves about $2.2 billion to be funded by tolls. According to the official website, there will be 5000 trucks per day taken off Pennant Hills Road, yielding tolls of $105,000 daily. Suppose 15000 cars use the tunnel daily, yielding another $105,000 to total $210,000 daily. Even if no interest was to be paid, about ten thousand days' operation (27 years) would be needed to fund construction. No estimate has been published of operating costs but they would certainly add significantly to the paying-off period.
The only pressure encouraging car drivers to use the tunnel will be a time saving on Pennant Hills Road. Outside peak hours, one would expect few private motorists to spend seven dollars each trip to save a few minutes. And many truck drivers will quickly arrange their affairs to save twenty-one dollars per trip.
Meanwhile, the extra capacity provided by Northconnex is certain to generate increased peak-hour traffic which will exacerbate congestion on feeder roads at both ends. Interestingly, no less a roadbuilder than Infrastructure Australia has published an article on induced demand.
By chance, a journalist found out that truck tolls are guaranteed. Learn more...
Learn more ... about Northconnex.