Tale of two cities – in one “CBD”

WHO KNEW? Unlike the other part of the ‘Harbour CBD’, North Sydney cops the through traffic

In A Metropolis of Three Cities the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) defines the ‘Harbour CBD’ as the Sydney CBD, North Sydney CBD, Barangaroo, Darling Harbour, Pyrmont, The Bays Precinct…’

According to the GSC, the Harbour CBD is characterised by financial services and knowledge intensive industries such as legal, accounting, real estate and insurance. The assets that support the Harbour CBD’s global role include entertainment, cultural, tourist and conference facilities, an internationally competitive health and education precinct and a robust creative sector providing entrepreneurial and job opportunities.

North Sydney has been, is, and will be even more attractive to all of these functions. It should also expect to progressively improve the quality of civic spaces, civic functions and other attributes of a real city centre. An attractive pedestrian environment is essential. This means that the city streets are for local and service traffic only and for accessing all forms of high quality public transport. (How to achieve this? See our Five Big Ideas.)

Here’s what the GSC said about the proposed tunnels.

‘The Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link will further improve accessibility from the Northern Beaches to the Harbour CBD and reduce through traffic in the Harbour CBD.’

And it’s true, the tunnels will greatly reduce through traffic in Sydney.

But as presently planned the tunnels will increase through traffic to intolerable levels in North Sydney.

WHO KNEW? For Transport NSW, the North Sydney city centre is just a transport interchange with office towers.

It’s February 2021. We’ve got this far in the planning of massive long term investments in road tunnels without fully understanding the drastic impacts on the North Sydney city centre.

The fate of Berry Street is almost entirely ignored in both the Western Harbor Tunnel EIS and the Beaches Link EIS even though Berry Street – and therefore North Sydney – suffers the most damaging impacts.

Despite their size, the EIS documents make it almost impossible to gain a clear sense of traffic movements into and out of the tunnels, since they disregard the impacts on North Sydney as a city centre, focusing on minor additional roadworks and infrastructure, and delays at local intersections.

The road builders have chosen not to further develop what we are calling the Northside Main Interchange. That’s at the top of the hill where currently there is access, from east and west and in all directions, to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Harbour Tunnel and the Gore Hill Freeway.

This is also where the Western Harbour Tunnel and the Beaches Link will meet, and partially interconnect with the Warringah Freeway, the Gore Hill Freeway the east-west arterials.

Instead of allowing for all connections, it was cheaper and easier for the road builders to off-load crucial connections onto Berry Street.

As a result, there will be four full lanes of cars, commercial vehicles and heavy freight weaving down Berry Street to access not only the Warringah Freeway in both directions but also the only connections to the Western Harbor and Beaches Link tunnels, as shown on Beaches Link EIS Figure 9-5. Fortunately, this is marked Indicative only – subject to design development.

This is a detail of Beaches Link EIS Figure 9-5 – the full figure is here. The main access to the tunnels and freeways are not shown: Warringah and Gore Hill freeways are the main connections to the two tunnels, and vice versa. The two proposed tunnels connect directly.

For some reason, many of the local connections are not shown either. However, we do know that many routes lead to the Warringah Freeway: if Berry Street ceases to be a freeway on-ramp, there will still be Willoughby Road, Brook Street, Miller Street, Ernest Street, Falcon Street, Mount Street, High Street and Pacific Highway.

WHO CARES? There’s a solution, that would secure North Sydney’s role in the ‘Harbour CBD’.

Having got this far, the solution will not be cheap and easy, but it’s feasible.

Sydney’s road engineers have worked wonders in fitting big new motorways and complex interchanges into busy and highly constrained road corridors.

South of the harbour a gigantic interchange is emerging under the railway land at Rozelle, with connections to and from the M4-M5 Link, City West Link, Victoria Road, Anzac Bridge and the Western Harbour Tunnel and therefore on to the Beaches Link (if built). When the Rozelle interchange is finished, there will be ten hectares of new public green space above it.

What the road builders have to work with north of the bridge are two existing interchanges. The first is the complex ramps and intersections at the top of the hill. Transport for NSW calls their work here the ‘Warringah Freeway upgrade’. We call it the Northside Main Interchange.

The other interchange is where the Pacific Highway and High Street interconnect with the Bradfield Highway and the Cahill Expressway.

These are the only two interchanges where traffic between Artarmon and Mosman should access the existing freeways and the proposed tunnels. A redesign that eliminates the Berry Street on-ramps will mean that they can do so without travelling through the heart of the North Sydney city centre.