The Sea Cliff Bridge on Lawrence Hargrave Drive, not long before construction was completed. Dec 2005.

Lifespan: 1974-2004 (30 years)

Length: 51km

Northern Terminus: Princes Hwy & Farnell Ave, Loftus

Southern Terminus: Princes Hwy & Lawrence Hargrave Dr, Bulli

Route taken: Lawrence Hargarve Dr, Lady Wakehurst Dr, Sir Betram Stevens Dr, Audley Rd, Farnell Ave

Focal Points: Sutherland, Bundeena, Stanwell Park, Bulli

RTA Internal Classification: Main Road No. 185 (Lawrence Hargrave Dr), Main Road No. 393 (Remainder of Route)

Route Overview:

State Route 68 was a north-south state route, mainly acting as a tourist route between Bulli and Sutherland via the costal cliffs and the Royal National Park. The route was introduced in 1974 but the Lawrence Hargrave Dr section has always been dogged by persistent rock falls and was permanently closed in July 2003. Following this, SR68 was decommissioned in 2004 and has not returned following re-opening of the road in December 2005.

Lawrence Hargrave Drive was constructed in the 1860s and was known as the Lower Coast Road until 1947 when it was named Lawrence Hargrave Drive after the first man in Australia to fly - from nearby Bald Hill Lookout. Originally a gravel road, it was sealed as part of restoration works following a landslide in 1958 to provide for increasing volumes of tourist traffic. Counteracting its beautiful coastal location, ten serious landslides which closed the road have occurred since 1879 and more than 50 rock falls have occurred between 1996 and 2005. Following a landslide in 1946, the Acting Assistant Chief Engineer of the Department of Main Roads says "The danger along this cliff section is greater than normally exists on mountain lengths from movement of rocks"1, highlighting the danger of the road.

Major subsidence of the road and mud slides from the adjacent mountains caused the worst damage in twenty-five years in April 1988 and the road was closed for six months while a $6 million repair job was undertaken. Only months after its re-opening in November 1988, further heavy rain in April 1989 caused two deep-seated slips and the road was this time partially closed (restricted to one-way traffic) and a 5 tonne limit imposed.

In early 2003, consultants were appointed to investigate options for improving the safety of the road and the possibility of closing it to traffic. It was found that a quick-fix solution for Lawrence Hargrave Drive did not exist and that the best option was to permanently close the road and reconstruct the 900m section between Coalcliff and Clifton as a whole. "The independent expert report emphasised that a 'quick-fix' solution for Lawrence Hargrave Drive did not exist. While the independent expert study was underway, two significant developments further highlighted the dangers of the road and the need for repairs. In June 2003, a widening crack was discovered on the ‘ocean side’ of the road and in July 2003, approximately 15 cubic metres of rock fell on to the roadway. An investigation found significant risk of additional rock falls and that the embankment crack was continuing to move and could result in a major collapse of the road."2 Thus, it was announced in August 2003 that the a major upgrade of the road would be embarked on over the next 2.5 years at a cost of up to $40 million. The construction of a 655m viaduct over rock platforms in the water was chosen as the preferred option, as it would reduce the risk of rock slides to almost nil and not disturb the beauty of the area. Construction was commenced in June 2004 and was scheduled to be completed in February 2006. However, construction work ran ahead of schedule allowing the road to be officially opened to traffic on 12 December 2005, at a final cost of $49 million. The new bridge was named Sea Cliff Bridge, a name chosen by a Year 6 school student from Gwynnieville who won a competition to name the bridge.

Notable events:

1974 - Route introduced
Apr 1988 - Lawrence Hargrave Dr closed due to major subsidence and landslides
Nov 1988 - LHD reopened
2003 - LHD closed again due to rockslides
2004 - SR68 decommissioned

Photos of the former State Route 68
Princes Hwy southbound approaching the start of SR68 at Loftus. Feb 2005.
ID signs southbound on Princes Hwy at Farnell Ave. July 2004.
Princes Hwy northbound approaching Farnell Ave at Loftus. April 2005.
ID signs northbound on Princes Hwy at Farnell Ave, Loftus. July 2004.
Sir Betram Stevens Drive southbound at Bundeena Drive in the Royal NP. Feb 2004.
Sir Betram Stevens Dr northbound at Bundeena Dr. Feb 2004.
Lady Wakehurst Dr southbound approaching Lawrence Hargrave Dr at Stanwell Tops. This sign was installed in late 2005 - note the blank coverplate over "Wollongong" in preparation for the re-opening of Lawrence Hargrave Dr. Dec 2005.
Heading north from Stanwell Tops on Lady Wakehurst Dr - this is one of the few remnants of SR68. Dec 2005.
ID sign at the intersection of Lawrence Hargrave Dr & Lady Wakehurst Dr. This sign was installed in late 2005 - note the blank coverplate over "Wollongong" in preparation for the re-opening of Lawrence Hargrave Dr. Dec 2005.
SR68 remnant at the same intersection. July 2004.
Northbound on Lawrence Hargrave Dr approaching Lady Wakehurst Dr. Feb 2004.
Eastbound on Lawrence Hargrave Dr approaching Lady Wakehurst Dr. Feb 2004.
Looking south where Lawrecne Hargarve Drive is closed to traffic. July 2004.
Northbound RD sign on Lawrence Hargrave Dr at Bulli. Feb 2004.
Princes Hwy southbound at SR68's former southern terminus, Bulli. Feb 2004.
Princes Hwy northbound at SR68's former southern terminus, Bulli. Feb 2004.

1. Roads and Traffic Authority; 'History' [Online] Available from: http://www.rta.nsw.gov.au/constructionmaintenance/majorconstructionprojectsregional/lawrencehargravedrive/lhd_history.html Accessed: 5 December 2005
2. Roads and Traffic Authority; 'Upgrading' [Online] Available from: http://www.rta.nsw.gov.au/constructionmaintenance/majorconstructionprojectsregional/lawrencehargravedrive/lhd_upgrading.html Accessed: 5 December 2005

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