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Update From BAG BCC Representative

Monday 3rd May 2021

On late Friday afternoon members of the Blackheath Co-design Committee were contacted by TfNSW that the Minister for Regional Transport, the Hon. Paul Toole, would be coming to Blackheath today, Monday morning for a breakfast meeting with all the BCC reps to announce TfNSW's decision about the proposed highway upgrade through Blackheath and the Upper Mountains.

Here is a breakdown of what we learned today:

1) TfNSW has decided there will be the Long Option 4.5-km tunnel under Blackheath starting south of Evans Lookout Rd, and finishing just beyond the Mt Boyce Weight Station;

2) A second 4-km tunnel will go under Mt Victoria that will begin near Soldier's Pinch and exit in Little Hartley, bypassing Victoria Pass;

3) A new option is on the table with the potential to combine the two tunnels into one longer, 11-km tunnel that would start south of Evans Lookout Rd and finish in Little Hartley, and would be as deep as 100m under the surface in some places, but a decision on this won't be made by TfNSW until onward of a year from now;

4) Construction in Blackheath for building a tunnel would begin in 2023;

5) Construction of a 4-lane dual carriageway through Medlow Bath and an overhead pedestrian crossing would begin in 2022, at the north (west end) of town, and further public consultations with the Medlow Bath community will occur around June or July this year;

6) There are no further planned community consultations with Blackheath at this time, instead the details of the proposed tunnels is meant to be posted today on the TfNSW website. TfNSW has just posted an email media release to members of the BCC, which is copied below;

7) Concern over damage to aquifers under Blackheath caused by tunneling, and subsequent impacts on nearby hanging swamps and drinking water sources were raised several times with Mr Toole and with Alistair Lunn of TfNSW, so they/TfNSW are aware of these important community concerns, but we need to remain diligent with our concerns about the numerous environmental impacts that will result from tunneling so close to our town and within the World Heritage Area, as well resisting TfNSW's plans to allow 30-m B-Double trucks on the GWH once the dual carriageway is completed;

8) Mr Toole told us around 20 hectares of National Park land will need to be taken over for the Katoomba-Lithgow Highway Upgrade to create the planned dual carriageway from Wallerawang to the Sydney Basin;

9) Concerns were also raised about the potential for moving 1000s of truck loads of tunnel spoils through Blackheath village as the tunnel boring proceeds, and Mr Lunn told us they were working on how to prevent this massive movement of trucks from having to travel through Blackheath while the tunnel was being dug;

10) Concerns were also raised with Mr Toole about the planned road design through Medlow Bath, and the need to re-examine these plans due to the many concerns on various design issues voiced by the people of Medlow Bath;

11) The tunnel project in Blackheath is expected to take some 4 years to complete once they begin, and the pricetag on the GWH Upgrade is now around $8 billion.

We will have further information updates as we learn more about the new option of a longer, 11-km tunnel under the Upper Mountains.

Gary McCue

BCC rep for BAG

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