SYDNEY-NEWCASTLE FWY: Construction Information

The Sydney-Newcastle Freeway connects (yes, you guessed it!) Sydney and Newcastle as well as providing a bypass of the Newcastle metropolitan area. The freeway cuts through some of the most unforgiving terrain between Berowra and Somersby and then follows the undulating farm land north of Tuggerah. Currently, the F3 begins at Pennant Hills Rd, Wahroonga and ends at a horrible roundabout with John Renshaw Dr & Weakleys Dr in Beresfield. Planning is underway to extend the freeway south to the M2 Motorway and north to Raymond Terrace.

Todays F3 is vastly different to that proposed in the 1950's by the Department of Main Roads. Read about the evolution of what I believe is Australia's most amazing freeway below.


Initial plans for a freeway

Following World War II, it was glaringly obvious that the existing route between Sydney and Newcastle, not even 20 years old by that time, was completely inadequate for the amount of traffic it carried. By 1960, traffic across the 3-lane Peats Ferry Bridge had reached a daily average of 6,600 vehicles, rising to over 18,000 per day in holiday times. The existing two-lane, winding alignment was unsuitable to carry this amount of traffic, let alone any future increase, and there was considerable local-through traffic conflict through the busy town centres of Gosford, Wyong, Swansea and Belmont.

During the late 1950's the DMR undertook investiagtions to determine whether any route existed between Sydney and Newcastle superior to the current alignment. It was found that a line close to the existing route was most suitable with the exception of an alternate route via Peats Ridge to bypass Gosford. It was decided that the road should be constructed as an expressway with at least four lanes and no at-grade cross traffic.

With the general scheme for the freeway having been determined, detailed engineering surveys proceeded so that the DMR could work out the exact alignments for other sections. It was decided to firstly proceed with the sections that could provide the highest traffic relief. For this reason, the Calga-Ourimbah length was constructed firstly as a two-lane expressway style road to serve as an initial bypass of Gosford.

At its south end, the freeway was planned to connect to the County of Cumberland freeway system at Wahroonga and proceed south along the Lane Cove River to the new Gladesville Bridge as the Lane Cove Valley Freeway before following the general line of Victoria Rd to Ultimo as the North Western Freeway. North of Ourimbah, the freeway would bypass Wyong to the east and follow a line generally parallel to the existing highway to near Charlestown where it would join the Northumberland County (Newcastle) freeway system.

Click HERE for a map of the original freeway route, planned by the DMR in the 1950's
Click HERE for a map showing the lower half of the proposed freeway route. [Paul Rands]
Click HERE for a map showing the Newcastle section of the proposed freeway.[Paul Rands]


Plans for a toll road

In order to build the expressway in the quickest time possible, the DMR, realising its finiancial limitations, decided to call tenders in March 1960 for the construction and operation of a four lane toll road between Sydney and Newcastle. When tenders were closed, there were only 4 offers put forward by the private sector as most companies would not have the slightest idea of how much it would cost and what it would take to build a project of such difficulty. There was one serious bid by Solomon, an Englishman, who had £50 million earmarked for the construction of the road. However, the DMR was always against letting the private sector construct such an important project and the commissioner of the time, Howard Sherrard, threatened to resign when the government decided it would take Solomon up on his offer. This caused the government to abandon the private sector idea, and announce in January 1962 that it had accepted a proposal from the DMR for the construction of a four-lane expressway that would not only connect Sydney and Newcastle but form part of an improved route to the north and north-west of the state. In 1965, the proposal was refined to include a new route across Mooney Mooney Creek downstream from the Pacific Hwy crossing that would render the existing Peats Ridge route redundant. However, it was recognised that construction would not be possible until at least the mid-1970's due to financial restrictions.


Temporary Expressway - Calga to Ourimbah via Peats Ridge

The DMR commenced construction of the freeway in 1960, with the now defunct Calga - Peats Ridge - Ourimbah section the first to be built. A road already existed between Calga and Central Mangrove, built as a developmental road by Gosford Council with funds from the DMR. It was decided to upgrade this road to a 50mph design speed rather than build a parallel expressway at this stage as the search for a shorter suitable route across Mooney Mooney Creek continued. Between a point 2km south of Central Mangrove and Ourimbah, an entirely new alignment was chosen and constructed as a super-2 expressway with a 60mph design speed. It was intended that the route be upgraded to 4-lanes in conjunction with the construction of the parallel expressway between Calga and Central Mangrove in later years.

In 1965, a practicable route across Mooney Mooney Creek to Kariong was found, leaving the Peats Ridge route redundant. However it was agreed that this route would have to serve as the main through route until at least the mid-1970's when finances would become available for construction of the new route which included a large bridge across the Mooney Mooney Creek and Gorge that would cost more than £3 million. The proposed parallel expressway between Calga and Central Mangrove would be retained as part of an improved route to the New England Hwy at Singleton via Wollombi. This proposal was later abandoned.

The route through Peats Ridge was opened to traffic in March 1964, only months before construction of the Calga Interchange began. National Route 1 retained its Pacific Highway alignment until 1974 when the entire F3 was proclaimed part of the National Highway and Peats Ridge Rd was given the NH1 designation. The designation was later revoked in 1986 when the true expressway opened between Calga and Somersby, although the last NH1 signs werent removed until 2004.

The route was proclaimed State Highway 26 upon opening in March 1964, replacing the Main Road 590 designation between Calga and Central Mangrove. After 32 years of service, State Highway 26 was decomissioned in November 1996 and is now Main Road 455, under the control of Gosford Council as a regional road.

Click HERE for a map showing the original plans for the F3 via Peats Ridge
Click HERE for a map showing the 1962 proposal by the DMR across Mooney Mooney Creek
Click HERE for more information and photos of the Peats Ridge alignment of NH1.


Construction of the expressway proper begins - Hawkesbury River to Mount White

Construction of the first stage of the Department of Main Roads' expressway proposal, from Hawkesbury River to Mt White, was commenced in April 1963. A new route was decided on, as due to rugged terrain any improvements to the existing Pacific Hwy route would be expensive, difficult and still not provide and adequate design standard. Investigations for this new route took into account these factors:

1. The retention of any existing assests suitable for incorporation into the expressway such as Peats Ferry Bridge.
2. The reduction to a minimum of interference with developed property, particularly houses, orchards and other intensely cultivated land. For this reason it was desirable that the route should skirt and not pass through settled areas.
3. In view of the high total cost, the desirability of selecting a location that would permit staged construction and allow the road to be brought into use progressively.
4. The need to give priority in construction to the length between the Hornsby area and Gosford for the reason that this length carries more traffic than north of Gosford and it also embraces sections of the existing road which present the more difficult driving conditions.
5. The need for a high standard connection to serve the north and north-western parts of the state passing to the west of Newcastle and linking with the existing New England Hwy in the vicinity of Singleton. This link would also serve the coalfields area, centred on Cessnock.

The first stage between Hawkesbury River and Mt White was to begin at the river and join the existing Pacific Hwy on the motorway section 2km south of Mt White, declared in March 1960. This temporary connection was abandoned in June 1964 when construction commenced on the route as far as the Mt White interchange. It was also apparent that that section north of Mt White to join State Highway 26 at Calga would be opened to traffic very soon after the Hawkesbury River-Mt White stage. A short section of the Pacific Hwy had to be reconstructed where it conflicted with the freeway alignment south of Mt White and this deviation was opened to traffic late in 1964.

During construction, a family of four was killed after workers accidentally pushed a large boulder from the expressway site onto the existing highway, completely squashing a car.

This section includes Jolls Bridge, a pair of twin bridges across an section of ridge-top that was too narrow to accommodate a 6-lane carriageway. Climbing lanes were provided in both directions between the toll booths and a point 2km south of Mt White. The freeway has since been widened to 6-lanes for the entire length between Hawkesbury River and Mt White. This widening was completed by May 2004.

The Hawkesbury River to Mt White stage was opened in December 1965, including a 20c toll payable at toll booths just north of the Hawkesbury River.


Expressway Construction Begins in Sydney

The first stage of the F3 within the County of Cumberland was opened in September 1963 when the Fig Tree Bridge over Lane Cove River at Hunters Hill was opened to traffic. Combined with the bridge over Tarban Creek (opened Dec 1965), the new Gladesville Bridge (opened Oct 1964) and interchanges at Church St, Hunters Hill and Victoria Rd, Huntleys Point, this made up the Drummoyne to Lane Cove stage of the F3. Extensions at either end of this section were ultimately abandoned in 1977, and it has never lived up to its true calling. For more information on this section of expressway, click HERE.


Mount White to Calga

The Mt White to Calga stage was commenced in May 1965 as the Hawkesbury River to Mt White stage was nearing completion. This section included a phantom interchange about 1km north of the Mt White interchange, where a large cutting and viaduct was constructed for the future route of the expressway. The existing alignment to Calga interchange was only intended as a link to the Peats Ridge interim expressway route, and later part of the route to the New England Hwy at Singleton. The route of the F3 at this time was planned to cross Mooney Mooney Creek downstream from the existing Pacific Hwy bridge, hence the large cutting that sat unused for nearly 40 years. When finances became available for the Mt White to Somersby construction stage, the NPWS wouldn't allow the DMR to build their preferred alignment through the Brisbane Water National Park and new line was selected utilising the existing Calga 'link'. During 2002-03 the phantom interchange was reconstructed as part of the widening of this section to 6-lanes.

The initial design of the Calga interchange was a simple trumpet, with the Sydney-Newcastle Tollway and Peats Ridge Rd being the through route. The interchange was later reconstructed in 1986 as part of the Calga-Somersby section of the F3 and now favours the expressway as the through route. 'Ghost' bridges still exist across the link from Calga township to Peats Ridge road where the freeway once passed over it and they are easily accessible by foot.

The Mt White to Calga section opened to traffic in October 1966.


Berowra to Hawkesbury River

In April 1966, construction commenced on the Berowra to Hawkesbury River section. This section traverses steep and rocky terrain and has climbing lanes for 3km immediately south of the Hawkesbury River. The interchange with the Pacific Hwy at Berowra included toll booths and Heavy Vehicle Checking Stations that were placed to catch both Pacific Hwy and freeway traffic. The toll booths also were the first to use automatic toll collection facilities in Australia.

At its northern end, temporary ramps connected the freeway to the Pacific Hwy and Peats Ferry Bridge, traces of which can be found today. These ramps were removed when the freeway bridge over the Hawkesbury River opened in 1973.

In conjunction with this project was the reconstruction of the Pacific Hwy to 6 lanes through Berowra and 4-lanes south to Mt Colah to form an improved access route to the north. This was an interim measure until the Berowra-Wahroonga section could be constructed.

The Berowra to Hawkesbury River section opened to traffic in December 1968.


Hawkesbury River Bridge

For 5 years following the completion of the Hawkesbury River to Berowra section, freeway traffic used the existing Peats Ferry Bridge to cross the Hawkesbury, which it shared with Pacific Hwy traffic. Construction on a new 6-lane bridge across the river for freeway traffic exclusively was commenced in 1969, only months after the Hawkesbury River-Berowra section was completed.

There was great difficulty in construction, as the Hawkesbury River at this point is very deep and has a very unstable bed. Piles had to be sunk up to 80m below the river bed to keep the bridge stable. The opening of the bridge was done in stages in order to keep access to and from the freeway open at all times. The northbound carriageway opened in August 1973, allowing the northbound ramp to Peats Ferry Bridge to be demolished, and the southbound carriageway constructed in its place. The entire bridge was opened to traffic in October 1973.


Toll road no more: the F3 gets federal funding

In 1974 the National Highway system was born and the existing Berowra-Calga Tollwork (aka Sydney-newcastle Freeway) was proclaimed part of the Sydney-Brisbane link as well as all future sections of the F3. By this stage, the connection to the New England Hwy at Singleton via Wollombi had long been abandoned. The National Highway corridor only stretched as far south as the Berowra Interchange, but it did provide assurance that future sections of the F3 would be toll-free. Following the cancellation of the North Western & Lane Cove Valley sections of the F3 in 1977, the National Highway corridor was extended south to meet Pennant Hills Rd at Wahroonga in 1979. Also, in 1974 the tollway recieved the National Highway 1 shield (including the route through Peats Ridge) relegating the Pacific Hwy through Gosford to the Alternate NR-1 designation. Also in 1974, the freeway was given the F3 designation, however it was never signposted as far as i know.


Wyong gets a bypass

The 1970's was a slow decade for construction on the F3 as the DMR's financial and labour resources were diverted to other freeway projects namely the Western and South-Western Freeways and a new route was investigated to the west of Lake Macquarie. While detailed designs progressed, the next stage of construction wasn't commenced until 1978 as the injection of federal funding slowly trickled through.

The initial route of this section was gazetted in 1958, passing to the east of Wyong, along the shores of Tuggerah Lake and from there north to Doyalson. In 1968, a detailed study of the route north of Ourimbah recommended that a new route should be adopted to the west of Wyong, avoiding new residential devolpment near Kanwal. In August 1969, this new route was approved and gazetted by the government. The adopted route follows the current alignment to Wallarah Creek where it turns north east along what is now Motorway Link to Doyalson. In 1976, the decision was made to abandon the route to the east of Lake Macquarie and instead bypass Newcastle to the west, joining the New England Hwy at a point to be decided between Hexham and Maitland.

Construction was commenced in 1980 on the Wyong Bypass section including the 7km 2-lane Motorway Link which was designed to be a temporary connection to the Pacific Hwy at Doyalson. The route departed the existing Pacific Hwy at Kangy Angy, passing through a 60m deep cutting and then traversing the Wyong River floodplain. Initially interchanges were provided at Cobbs Rd (now Wyong Rd) and Tooheys Rd (on Motorway Link) and only one carriageway north of Alison Rd. In conjunction with this project was the duplication of State Highway 26 between Somersby and Ourimbah, completed in December 1983. The freeway also opened between Kangy Angy and Doyalson in December 1983.

In October 1984 the 2nd carriageway opened between Alison Rd and the Wallarah Creek Interchange which was yet to be constructed. The northbound off-ramp to Motorway Link opened in August 1985 allowing construction to commence on the next stage to Morisset. In June 1986 the interchange at Sparks Rd was opened to traffic and in conjunction with the re-alignment of Sparks Rd created a second east-west link between the freeway and the ever-expanding central coast.

This particular stage crosses floodplain largely on fill and has suffered from what many call 'concrete cancer'. Cracks have appeared in the concrete surface as the fill has moved beneath the road base. It is most likely that the fill was not left to settle for long enough before application of the road base.

This section is also blessed with the only service centre on the freeway, which opened in June 1993. More info about the service centre can be found HERE.


National Highway 15/
National Route 1 duplex proposed

During 1982-83 the DMR proposed extending the existing National Highway 15 designation south from Hexham to Wahroonga via a duplex with the existing National Route 1 and F3 freeway. It can be assumed that the National Highway 15 designation would have been moved onto new sections of the F3 as they opened to traffic. Signs showing the new duplex were erected on the section between Kangy Angy and Wallarah Creek as well as roads approaching the freeway. Despite detailed plans being completed for the signposting of this duplex, it never really got off the ground and all signage was coverplated either before or just after installation. Some signage on the Hue Hue Rd approach to the Sparks Rd interchange recently had its coverplates removed/stolen uncovering this secret plan from the 1980's, while many other freeway green signs still have the duplex coverplated. The last freeway green sign that once showed the duplex on the freeway mainline was removed circa. 1998.

More information regarding this plan and pics of signage remnants can be found HERE.


New route between Calga and Somersby

Following the opening of the Wyong Bypass stage, construction stepped up on the new alignment between Calga and Somersby. The new route replaced the circuitous and single carriageway 21km route via Peats Ridge Rd. The new 14km alignment descended north of Calga to cross the Mooney Mooney Creek and Gorge on a high-level 6-lane bridge before climbing up to the ridge top at Kariong which it followed all the way to the Somersby Interchange.

The original alignment for this section differed greatly south of Kariong as it crossed the Mooney Mooney Creek downstream of the Pacific Hwy bridge and followed the Piles Creek valley to Kariong. When funds were made available for the construction of this section, the DMR faced stiff opposition from the NPWS who would not allow the construction of this route through Brisbane Water National Park. Reluctantly, the DMR had no choice but to investigate a new location for the route which they then proceeded to do detailed design for. This new route had a more expensive bridge and steeper grades than the preferred route but there was nothing the DMR could do about it. An extension of the Brisbane Water NP during the detailed design stage threatened this new route too but fortunately for the DMR, the Minister for Highways was standing in as the Minister for National Parks and he protected the integrity of the route. The DMR was still mighty disappointed in the decision to abadnon the original alignment which would have provided a less-expensive and better-graded alignment, not to mention the money wasted constructing the phantom interchange near Mt White which would have serviced the new route.

The Mooney Mooney Creek Bridge is one of the most spectacular on any highway in Australia, crossing the creek 75m above water level, spanning 480m from cliff to cliff and taking 3 and a half years to build. A viewing area was constructed on the northern side of the bridge, however it was closed to traffic in 2003.

The Kariong Interchange with the Pacific Hwy is the major access from the freeway into Gosford and much of the lower Central Coast. A 4km long deviation of the Pacific Hwy had to be constructed to take the highway away from the freeway alignment. This deviation opened to traffic in October 1983. The current northbound offramp roughly follows the route of the old Pacific Hwy.

The entire section between Calga and Somersby opened to traffic in December 1986 and commanded the National Highway 1 shield from the now defunct Peats Ridge route. Upon opening of this section there was now continuous freeway for 45km between Berowra and Ourimbah.


Freeway heads north to Morisset

Meanwhile, the freeway was slowly inching its way north and the next stage, between Wallarah Creek and Morisset, opened in September 1987. This section did not initally take the NH1 shield and wasn't even signposted to Newcastle originally.

Between Wallarah Creek and Morisset the freeway generally passes through open farmland and includes a steel tube which Tooheys Rd uses to pass under the high freeway embankment at Bushells Ridge.


Newcastle is bypassed for the first time

In March 1988, the next stage of construction opened to traffic between Morisset and Freemans Drive, providing a true bypass of Newcastle for the first time. At this time, National Highway 1 bypassed Newcastle for the first time ever, via duplexes with SR82/135/132. More info regarding this temporary alignment can be seen HERE. State Route 82 was also decomissioned at this time south of the Freemans Waterholes Interchange.

This section passes through the Dora Creek floodplain and the open farmland of Cooranbong. It also relieved the towns of Morisset and Cooranbong of the through traffic that once passed through on its way to Cessnock, Maitland and points north.


Berowra to Wahroonga is opened to traffic

While the F3 was steadily making its way north, work was underway to extend the freeway south to meet the Pacific Hwy and Pennant Hills Rd at Wahroonga. Commenced in February 1984, this section traversed the escarpment generally following the railway line and skirting the western boundary of Ku-ring-gai Chase NP. This section provided considerable environmental problems to engineers, with the original alignment having to be shifted away from a rare Boronia tree growing in a nature reserve. Wombat underpasses were also provided to allow them access to water. The southern 5km of this section was constructed with 6 lanes to assist with the merging of traffic and the climb onto the ridge at Ku-ring-gai Chase Rd.

The section from Berowra to Wahroonga opened in March 1989. In conjunction with this project, the Berowra tolls were removed in December 1988 and the southbound ramps were opened at Mooney Mooney. The Berowra Heavy Vehicle Checking Station was also closed to be replaced with the current Mt White station which opened in November 1991.


Freemans Drive to Palmers Rd

Following the extension of the freeway south to Wahroonga, where its National Highway status ended, the only place left to go was further north. And thats what happened! In December 1990, the freeway crept one interchange north with the opening of the Freemans Dr to Palmers Rd stage. This stage was not signposted as NH1 until the completion of the freeway through to Minmi in 1993, however it directed Newcastle traffic to use Palmers Rd to reach Newcastle via Toronto.


Palmers Rd to Minmi & the Newcastle Link Road

In 1976 the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, who were the advising authority for the upgrades to the National Highway system, recommended that "the National Highway should be extended from Wyee [Wallarah Creek] to the west of Lake Macquarie as far as Freemans Waterholes as a first stage, with a later extension to Sandgate."1 It was envisaged that in the long term the Pacific and New England Highway connection from Sandgate to Branxton would be replaced by a new section of highway somewhere to the south, possibly from the proposed National Highway near Estelville to Branxton. However, it was expected that the Sandgate corridor would form part of the National Highway for some time.
The Department of Main Roads adopted this decision in June 1976 and investigated the feasibility of the Sandgate corridor but in 1978 reported a number of difficulties in achieving a suitable location. Instead the Department recommended that the National Highway be linked to Thomas Street, Wallsend, as an interim measure, with the link to Pacific Hwy in the north being provided via the proposed State Highway No. 23 construction between Jesmond and Sandgate. The Wallsend corridor via Thomas St was adopted as the official proposal and became the subject of an EIS covering the National Highway from Wallarah Creek to Wallsend which was publicly exhibited in March 1983.
In December 1983 the Federal Minister for Transport, Peter Morris, announced a proposed 'National Highway Strategy for the Lower Hunter Region'. The main feature of this strategy was the long term bypassing of the urban areas of Newcastle and, eventually, Maitland. The strategy adopted a corridor for the highway west of Minmi to join the New England Highway, therefore effectively bypassing Newcastle. Included was a link road to connect the National Highway to Thomas St at Wallsend to serve Newcastle traffic. This link would follow essentially the same route as the original National Highway proposal but would only cater for Newcastle traffic.
Both the mainline and the link road were subjects of seperate Environmental Impact Statements exhibited in March 1987. The previous EIS, prepared by the DMR in 1983, had considered alignments through the Killingworth/West Wallsend/Barnsley area. The preferred alignment considered in that EIS was later found to be unfeasible. The reason for this was the extent of coal resources effected and the likely sterilisation which would result if that route was adopted. The 1987 EIS resulted in Alignment Proposal 'C' (Western Route) being chosen as the preferred alignment because it was "located further away from the developed areas of Killingworth, Holmesville and West Wallsend than the other routes" and had "generally less environmental impact".2 The 1987 EIS included a number of connections to the Wallsend area, including Cowper St and a new four-lane road constructed along the former Newcastle Wallsend Coal Co.'s Railway reservation to connect University Drive and relieve traffic along Wilkinson Ave. The EIS was approved for both the mainline and the link road and construction commenced in January 1989 between Palmers Rd and Lenaghans Drive. The upgrade of Lenaghans Drive to handle the National Highway traffic had commenced earlier, in June 1986.

This section traversed flat farmland adjacent to Killingworth and Newstan collieries and has Mt Sugarloaf provide a formidable backdrop. Interchanges are provided at George Booth Dr (SR128) and the Newcastle Link Rd, an integral part of this project. The 7km long link road with 3 roundabouts connects inter-regional traffic with the new major route in and out of Newcastle via Thomas St, Newcastle Rd and Griffiths Rd. Other projects constructed in conjunction with this stage were the upgrading of Lenaghans Dr to act as an interim National Highway, the duplication of Thomas St, Wallsend and the upgrading of George Booth Dr between Edgeworth and the freeway. In December 1993, the freeway was opened between Palmers Rd and a temporary interchange at Stockrington Rd, Minmi. SR82/135/132 were also relieved of NH1 traffic at this time. The Newcastle Link Rd opened at the same time as the freeway and bypassed a winding section of Minmi Rd, The link roads includes roundabouts at Cameron Park Dr, Minmi Rd and access to currently undeveloped land between Edeworth and Wallsend. The link road has a speed limit of 90km/h and no route number...yet.


Ourimbah gap is filled

Now there was only one gap to be filled between Wahroonga and Wallsend, a section at Ourimbah where freeway traffic still shared the dual carriageway Pacific Hwy with at-grade intersections. Also a large roundabout at the southern end proved to be a bottleneck during peak times, despite northbound traffic being able to bypass it. Construction began almost immediately after the Palmers Rd-Minmi stage was opened and was opened to traffic in December 1997. This 3km section from Ourimbah Creek Rd to Kangy Angy was constructed with 6 lanes, matching the sections at either end. It also includes dual bridges at Ourimbah Interchange, Ourimbah Creek, Palmdale Rd and Bangalow Creek.

For more information/photos of the former alignment of NH1 at Ourimbah, click HERE.


The 128km freeway is completed!

Just less than a year after the Ourimbah Gap was filled, the 128km freeway link between Sydney and Newcastle was completed. In December 1998, the interim National Highway, Lenaghans Dr, was bypassed by a 10km section along the western edge of Hexham Swamp. A northbound on-ramp was provided at Black Hill Rd to complement a southbound left-in-left-out set-up where the freeway rejoins Lenaghans Dr 800m south of John Renshaw Dr. This section took several years to construct because of the instability of the land it is built on. The temporary interchange with Stockrington Rd that once served Minmi traffic was closed upon opening.


Safety Issues,
Knee-jerk Reactions
increased capacity!

The first section of F3 to be built from the Hawkesbury River to Mt White has always been a talking point safety-wise. Following one or two major accidents during the easter long weekend on this stretch, the limit was reduced to 100km/h in April 1992. However, less than a year later, in December 1992, the lower limit was removed in time for the christmas peak.

During February 1991, heavy rains casued part of an embankment to collapse, completley closing the Pacific Hwy and a southbound lane of the F3 at Cheero Point. Following reconstruction of the embankment with Gabion cages and construction of a short viaduct on the Pacific Hwy, the highway and freeway lanes were re-opened in June 1994.

Following two more serious crashes during 2001, the speed limit was again lowered, this time to 90km/h between Hawkesbury River and Mt White. This speed restriction still exists and has been backed up by curve warning signage offering advisory speeds of 80km/h or less. So much for a 60mph (110km/h) design speed!

Rather than the aforementioned accidents occuring due to excessive speed, it was obvious to find that having the climbing lanes end on a corner (and uphill) made it very dangerous for trucks to merge back into faster traffic. The site of these crashes was also a major bottleneck during peak times, notorious among holidayers. So the decision was made to widen the 4-lane section between Mt White and Calga to 6-lanes, creating a 6-lane freeway between Cowan and Kariong. Part of this project would be the reconstruction of the phantom interchange north of Mt White, as the existing southbound carriageway was mostly viaduct and on a narrow formation, making widening very expensive. The first stage of this widening was commenced in June 2002 north of the phantom interchange as far as the existing 6-lane section at Calga. This work was opened to traffic October 2002. Widening south of the phantom interchange to the Pacific Hwy overpass at Mt White was commenced in June 2003. The new lanes and new southbound carriageway through the phantom interchange were opened to traffic by June 2004, however minor work continued. At the moment, the former southbound carriageway through the phantom interchange sits unused, but it is my opinion that it will become a truck parking area in the near future.


Future Improvemtents & Extensions

The Sydney-Newcastle Fwy is largely completed in its original intention to link the two cities, however at both ends there isn't any high-standard linkage into the major transport corridors.

Southern Extensions:
The original ambition of connecting the freeway to the CBD via Gladesville Bridge has long been quashed, leaving the freeway traffic to deal with the narrow and congested Pacific Hwy/Pennant Hills Rd corridors. A corridor was selected following the cancellation of the North Western & Lane Cove Valley sections of the F3 to connect to the city. This corridor utilised an existing reservation, established in 1987, between Wahroonga and North Ryde and then the M2/Lane Cove Tunnel/Gore Hill Fwy/Warringah Fwy route into the CBD. A high-standard route between the F3 and F5 freeways would be provided via the M2 and the Western Sydney Orbital (now Westlink M7).

In 1997, the NSW Government cancelled and sold the surface corridor that had been reserved since 1987 so the route is now being considered as a tunnel. Four options have been chosen: 2 meeting the M2 near the toll booths; 1 following Pennant Hills Rd and the other following the rail corridor. The preference is now to bypass the city rather than provide access to it, rendering the 1950's corridor rather obsolete.

In May 2004, the Federal Government announced that a preffered "purple" option has been selected and that work would commence on refining this option to a preferred alignment. This option is for a tunnelled road beneath the existing Pennant Hills Rd with connections to the M2 and the southern side of Pennant Hills Rd at Carlingford.

Northern Extensions:
Initial 1950's planning saw the F3 traverse the eastern shores of Lake Macquarie and join the Newcastle freeway system at Bennetts Green and no definate connection to Raymond Terrace was provided for in the Northumberland County Planning Scheme. The scheme utilised an upgraded Pacific Hwy/Hexham Bridge route but ribbon development has now prevented that option from becoming reality.

Following the re-routing of the F3 west of Lake Macquarie in 1976, options had to be explored to connect the freeway to the New England and Pacific Hwys. The completion of the Maitland Bypass in 1987 was a short-term solution for through traffic flow to the New England Hwy but a longer-term solution was required. In 1995, an EIS was completed for a link between the F3 at West Wallsend to the New England Hwy west of Branxton, bypassing the entire strip of development either side of Maitland. This link would also serve as a bypass of Maitland for through traffic from Newcastle. Since the EIS, there has been no progress, however funding has been allocated for the next few years under Auslink so we may well see some construction beginning soon. The link would most likely be 4-lanes (hopefully with climbing lanes as it traverses some steep country) and have interchanges at the F3, John Renshaw Dr (SR132), Main Rd (SR135), a new access road into Greta, and Branxton Rd (SR82). The western end would join the existing Belford Deviation dual carriageway.

Currently, Pacific Hwy traffic has to use an upgraded John Renshaw Dr/New England Hwy to connect to Hexham Bridge, itself rather obsolete, being orientated for a dominant traffic flow to/from Newcastle. Although 'expressway' conditions are encountered for most of the route, it is not up to proper design standard and contains 2 sets of signals and a roundabout. The RTA has just (November 2004) announced it is undertaking a planning study on the future alignment between the end of the F3 and the Raymond Terrace Bypass. It will most likely include a new Hunter River crossing and long sections across floodplain. Construction is not expected for many years.

1. Department of Main Roads; "Newcastle Link Road from F3 Sydney-Newcastle Freeway at Estelville to Wallsend EIS"; 1987; p2.1
2. Department of Main Roads; "Sydney-Newcastle Freeway No. 3 Section: Wallarah Creek Interchange to Wallsend EIS, Vol. 1"; Dec 1986; p.51

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