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The Rozelle Interchange has been described as one of the most complex road projects ever undertaken, a 24-kilometre labyrinth of twisting, overlapping tunnels so complicated in design that builders were loath to touch the project five years ago.
So perhaps it’s not surprising that when 2000 Sydneysiders were allowed inside it for the first time on Sunday, during a pedestrian tour, the first thing they wanted to know was how they could get out again.
Inner West residents get a look inside the Rozelle Interchange.Credit: Edwina Pickles
“People have been asking about where it connects, how much the toll is, how do they use it,” Chris Zito, the project’s director of operational improvement, said, standing in a westbound tunnel he helped build.
“We get ‘what happens if I miss my exit’ a lot.”
The tunnel is due to open to traffic before the end of the year, once testing of electrical, drainage and ventilation systems is complete. But a new overpass off The Crescent, connecting to Victoria Road and the City-West Link, will open on Monday night.
On Sunday, Transport for NSW gave inner west residents a tour of one of the interchange’s westbound tunnels, ushering them 100 metres inside, where from behind a barricade they could marvel at the unstained bitumen of the new road and ponder a very big hole that in a few weeks will swallow tens of thousands of vehicles a day off the Anzac Bridge and shoot them out onto the M4, the M8 or Victoria Road.
Anzac Bridge to Iron Cove Bridge
The Victoria Road bypass is toll-free, but the interchange will be part of the larger WestConnex motorway network, which charges motorists a distance-based toll capped at $11.11 for cars.
Maureen Robinson and Greg Stewart, whose house in Rozelle sits directly above the tunnel they toured on Sunday, said community sentiment towards the project had become more positive as it progressed.
“When it was drilling, we could feel it for a couple of weeks – just minor – it’s 60 metres under,” Stewart said. “Sydney sandstone – very strong.”
“People were [initially] concerned about too much road transport, not enough public transport, not enough cycling and so on, but they got a really good balance [in the end], given it’s a major road project.”
About 100,000 vehicles are expected to use the interchange every day, which Zito said should halve traffic on the Balmain/Rozelle section of Victoria Road.
Elizabeth McGarrigle photographs her children Cleo and Connal inside the Rozelle Interchange on Sunday.Credit: Edwina Pickles
That was welcome news to Elizabeth McGarrigle, from Rozelle, whose two children, aged 10 and 13, cross the major road to get to and from school.
“We’ve been following the construction for a lot of their lifetime, so it’s just nice to come and see what’s been happening underground,” McGarrigle said.
“We can easily walk across to Glebe now, when the new walkway across WestConnex is open, and it’s just bringing benefits to the area, which is great.”
Further connections to the Western Harbour Tunnel will open when that project is completed in 2028.
About 10,000 people watched an animated drive-through of the interchange on the Transport for NSW website on the first day it was published last week.
And for those who aren’t sure what to do should they miss their exit, Zito had a few words of advice: “Don’t stop. Don’t reverse. Keep going and use the next exit.”
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