Australia: 'Crazy stuff': Residents' fears grow over motorway tunnels under homes - - PressFrom - Australia

Australia 'Crazy stuff': Residents' fears grow over motorway tunnels under homes

19:45  20 october  2019
19:45  20 october  2019 Source:

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a woman standing on a sidewalk: Nikki Wedgwood is worried about the tunnels for the Rozelle interchange that will be dug eight metres below her street in Leichhardt.© Sam Mooy Nikki Wedgwood is worried about the tunnels for the Rozelle interchange that will be dug eight metres below her street in Leichhardt.

Residents fear plans to tunnel 15 metres or shallower beneath dozens of homes for an underground spaghetti junction in Sydney's inner west will render their properties "uninhabitable and unsellable".

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The plans say the bulk of the interchange - aimed at easing traffic congestion - will be 35 to 65 metres deep in Rozelle and Lilyfield, with tunnels extending under Leichhardt and Annandale.

But residents are worried that new maps suggest the tunnels will be as close as six metres under homes and shallower than the depths indicated in an environmental statement.

Their concerns add to frustrations over shrinking tunnel depths, construction noise, vibrations, and cracking damage felt by residents along earlier stages of the 33-kilometre toll route.

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Leichhardt home owner Nikki Wedgwood said she had understood that the tunnel beneath her Emma Street property would be about 25 metres deep. The latest map showed it will be eight metres.

"My main concern is once the tunnels have been built there will be constant vibrations and noise and my house will be uninhabitable and unsellable," she said.

"I still have hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay off my mortgage, so I'd be paying off a home I couldn't live in and couldn't sell ... I'm incredibly worried about it."

Another Emma Street resident, Alesoun Marsden, was previously told the tunnel would run 12 metres below her home.

The latest mapping shows the road will overlap a 29-metre-deep tunnel for the M4-M5 link and sit eight metres below the surface.

"I'm very concerned there will be ongoing noise and vibration that will make my life unliveable," Ms Marsden said.

Leichhardt Against WestConnex spokeswoman Christina Valentine was disappointed the depths appeared to have "materially changed without any community consultation".

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A Transport for NSW spokesman said some changes and improvements had been made to the project after the original environmental impact statement following "detailed design work".

He said residents might notice vibration and noise during construction directly below or near their properties. They would be offered "mitigation measures", including alternative accommodation, where appropriate.

"In most cases, ground-borne noise from tunnelling will be less than the noise of a refrigerator," he said.

The spokesman said the average depth of the tunnels was 35 metres. About 169 properties will sit above tunnels 15 metres deep - "the equivalent of a four-storey building" - or shallower.

Residents have previously been told they will not hear traffic when the tunnels open.

Inner West councillor Pauline Lockie said the new depths were "particularly concerning" given residents above deeper tunnels in North Strathfield claimed the project had cracked their houses.

"Now we're talking less than 10 metres in some cases, and nearly 200 homes where the tunnels are less than 15 metres [below properties]," Cr Lockie said. "This is crazy stuff."

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The Transport for NSW spokesman said the contractors would use "well-established construction methods".

"While no impact to homes is expected, any impact found to be caused by construction will be addressed at no cost to residents," he said.

Civil engineer Philip Pells, who has worked on some of Sydney's biggest tunnelling projects, has heard of some residents living above road tunnel construction "hearing the excavator at night - a vague grinding noise in the distance".

"It's possible for a house sitting six metres above the tunnel they may - may - feel the vibration [of traffic]. But most of the tunnels are way below that," he said.

Dr Pells said the "real issue" was the potential damage to houses, buildings and infrastructure due to ground movement.

"In almost all these other projects - the Eastern Distributor, NorthConnex, WestConnex or the M5 East - there have been a significant number of claims [for compensation over property damage]," he said.

"I don't know how it's going to play out; the fat lady hasn't sung yet on these projects."

University of Technology Sydney geotechnical engineering expert Behzad Fatahi said tunnelling techniques and machinery had improved in recent years but engineers “can't say there is zero risk”.

“There is some level of risk always but we try to minimise it."

Associate Professor Fatahi said the degree of settlement above tunnelling projects depended on the condition of the ground, the depth and size of the void and the types of tunnel supports used.

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