Australia Sydney's new $3b NorthConnex tunnel opens with aim to keep 5,000 trucks off Pennant Hills Road
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Sydney's newest motorway, NorthConnex, will open on Saturday after months of delays, with the $3 billion tunnel promising to ease traffic congestion in the city's north-west.
The tunnel connecting the M1 Pacific Motorway at Wahroonga to the M2 at West Pennant Hills is meant to slash travel times for drivers by avoiding 21 traffic lights.
The 9-kilometre tunnel is also expected to reduce the number of trucks on Pennant Hills Road, with heavy vehicles to face fines if they use the free alternative.
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From the weekend, toll gantries above ground will record heavy vehicles dodging the brightly coloured NorthConnex tunnel and fine them $194.
NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean, the Liberal member for Hornsby, said the removal of 5,000 trucks a day on Pennant Hills Road would ease congestion and improve road safety.
"This project is an absolute gamechanger. It'll make our streets safer and return our local community to the businesses and families who live there," Mr Kean said.
But the Transport Workers' Union (TWU) said truck drivers were being unfairly targeted.
TWU NSW secretary Richard Olsen said NorthConnex would be the only road in the state that penalised heavy vehicle drivers for choosing a free alternative.
"There are times of day and night where it makes total sense for truck drivers to utilise Pennant Hills Road rather than the tunnel but that is being denied to us by an arrangement between the State Government and Transurban," Mr Olsen said.
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Car drivers, who still have the option of using Pennant Hills Road, will be charged $7.99 if they use NorthConnex, while truckers must pay $23.97.
The two-lane tunnel, which has the capacity to carry up to 100,000 vehicles a day, was originally slated for completion late last year.
In a nod to the region, its northbound route includes blue and white forest silhouettes to reflect Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park, while the southbound route features starscapes and speed lines, reflecting the journey from the north-west to the CBD.
Patricia Dewey, the former President of the Hornsby Historical Society and Pennant Hills resident, hoped the long-awaited tunnel would improve quality of life for locals.
Ms Dewey, who has lived in the area for more than 70 years, said she had seen Pennant Hills Road transform from a quiet dirt road to a major thoroughfare for cars and trucks.
"Personally I don't like being on [Pennant Hills] Road with a truck in front of me behind me and either side of me — I just feel a little intimidated."
"Pennant Hills might revert to being a very quiet suburban suburb. I don't know. Time will tell."
NorthConnex tunnel will 'change lives' by making Sydney travel easier .
Federal Urban Infrastructure Minister Alan Tudge cut the ribbon along with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (pictured) at the tunnel's opening ceremony on Friday.Federal Urban Infrastructure Minister Alan Tudge cut the ribbon along with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian at the tunnel's opening ceremony on Friday.