The former F8 Freeway
Department of Main Roads Map showing the proposed ultimate route of the F8 Northern Distributor. Scanned from June 1974 edition of "Main Roads".
Northern Terminus: Bellambi Lane & York Road, Bellambi
Southern Terminus: F6 Southern Freeway, Gwynnieville
Route Names/Classification: Northern Distributor/Main Road No. 626 (F6 to Nth Wollongong), Princes Hwy/State Highway No. 1 (Nth Wollongong to Bellambi)
Route Markers: State Route 60 (North Wollongong to Bellambi)
Former route markers: Freeway Route 8
F6 to North Wollongong - July 1963
F6 to North Wollongong 2nd carriageway - 1965
University Ave/Porter St interchange - 1969
North Wollongong Interchange - 1985
North Wollongong to Towradgi Rd - Oct 1990
Towradgi Rd to Bellambi Lane - Dec 1992
Towradgi Rd to Bellambi Lane 2nd carriageway - May 1993
Gwynnieville Interchange - Dec 1998
The Northern Distributor, formerly known as the F8, is an expressway-grade route from the F6 at Gwynnieville to Bellambi Lane at Bellambi. North of Elliots Rd at Fairy Meadow, the Distributor has at-grade intersections with Towradgi Rd, Railway St, Rothery St and Bellambi Lane. South of Fairy Meadow the Distributor is now completely grade-separated with the opening of the Gwynnieville Interchange in December 1998. Although signs show the Northern Distributor name along the entire length of the Distributor, from North Wollongong to Bellambi the Distributor is classified as part of the Princes Highway. Signage on the route dates to a matter of months before the classification became legal, suggesting that it would have been wasteful to replace signs that were new. Prior to its extension to Towradgi Road in 1990, the Distributor was signposted as Freeway Route 8.
The Northern Distributor was first planned in 1945, when the Department of Main Roads formulated a plan for the development of the Main Roads system in the Wollongong/Port Kembla region. The plan included a north-south expressway from Thirroul to south of Dapto, the northern part of which corresponds to today's Northern Distributor. The DMR's development plan, with some changes, was included in the Illawarra Planning Scheme in 1950. The plan, and thus its road reservations, became statutory in 1952 and the DMR began acquiring land.
Traffic congestion through Wollongong City Centre necessitated an early commencement of construction. Construction on the Distributor from Princes Hwy at North Wollongong to Philips Ave at West Wollongong was commenced in May 1959. An initial small stage of single carriageway road was opened to traffic in December 1959 as far south as Foley Street, to allow the Christmas holiday traffic to bypass the City Centre of Wollongong via Foley St, Mercury St and New Dapto Rd. The full length of the first stage was opened to traffic in July 1963 and duplicated in 1965. An overpass to take University Ave across the Distributor at Gwynnievillewas opened in September 1968, eliminating the at-grade intersection with Foley Street.
Following the opening of the first stage of the Distributor in 1963, the Department of Main Roads' construction focus turned to the F6 Southern Freeway and its extensions south towards Dapto. For this reason, no progress was made on extending the Northern Distributor past North Wollongong, although its 1km length was given the F8 shield in 1973.
It wasn't until 1985 that a start was made on extending the Distributor northwards, with a bridge to carry the Princes Highway across the expressway at North Wollongong opening that year. The bridge that carries Elliots Road across the Distributor and South Coast railway line, replacing a level crossing, was opened to traffic in November 1989. This allowed work on the extension to be finished and the Distributor reached Towradgi Road in October 1990. The original design and reservation provided for a dimaond interchange, however, only a signalised at-grade intersection was provided at this time. By this time the Freeway Route system in NSW was dead and buried so no new F8 signs were installed on the extension.
Following the opening to Towradgi Road, work continued northwards to take the Distributor to Bellambi Lane. In order to get the extension open in time for Christmas the opening was staggered. One (2-way) carriageway was opened to traffic in December 1992, the duplicate carriageway following suit in May 1993. It was on the opening of this stage that the Northern Distributor was given the SR60 shield (North Wollongong to Bellambi Lane) and as of 1 July 1993 the Distributor became the Princes Highway long that same section. Signage was installed prior to gazettal and thus does not yet show the name change.
The original 1952 reservation provided a corridor extending all the way north to Lawrence Hargrave Drive at Thirroul, with room for grade-separated interchanges at John Street, Woonona, and Princes Highway, Bulli. The reservation follows York Road and Mitchell Street, then moving to the east of Thompsons Street, crossing the Princes Hwy near Hospital Road, rounding the west sude of Bulli Showground before crossing the highway again between George Ave and Sturdee St and finally terminating at Lawrence Hargrave Drive near Wrexham Road. As far as I know the reservation is fully intact, although it is possible that the land for the grade-separated interchanges may have been sold. The RTA is currently awaiting funding to extend the Distributor north to the Princes Highway at Bulli.
The EIS was completed in November 2002 and planning approval for the project was granted in July 2004. The project design has seen some major changes to the origonal reservation. Two at-grade intersections will be provided, at Alice St and at Princes Hwy, while two grade spearated interchanges, at Park Rd and Campbell St, will improve through traffic flow through Bulli. The extension now makes use of vacant land on the eastern side of York Road and Mitchell St before returning to the original reservation at Park Road. The alignment has been moved as far east as possible to minimise impacts at Woonona High School. No construction timeframe has been provided, the latest statement (13/6/05) on the RTA website states: "The RTA will now implement the project in accordance with the conditions of approval."1
1. Roads and Traffic Authority; "Northern Distributor Extension, Wollongong" (Online); 2005; Available from: http://www.rta.nsw.gov.au/constructionmaintenance/majorconstructionprojectsregional/southcoast/wollongongnthdistributor.html [Accessed 13 June 2005]