North Sydney cautious about plans to fix Military Road traffic

Efforts to make the bus commute from the northern beaches faster risk impeding other motorists and punishing residents closer to the city, critics have warned.

Premier Mike Baird has confirmed that Tuesday’s budget will contain transport measures to speed up interminable bus journeys from Mona Vale to the city, a 28-kilometre trip which can take up to 90 minutes.

Mr Baird also detailed on Thursday the preliminary cost of the north and south extensions to the planned WestConnex motorway, which would be funded by the partial sale of the state’s electricity assets.

The two proposed spurs, which would create a motorway link from southern Sydney through to the Anzac Bridge, were ‘‘in the ballpark’’ of $1.5 billion each – subject to the findings of a feasibility study.

‘‘We will be detailing the final costing as we get to November,’’ he said.

Next week’s budget will fund a $5 million feasibility study into building a tunnel under Military Road, a longer-term prospect which would enable city-bound vehicles to avoid the notorious bottleneck.

“We are committing to doing the feasibility and strategic work required to consider [the tunnel] project,” Mr Baird said.

“In the budget there will be a shorter term announcements that start to attack congestion on that corridor and we need to do it across this great city.”

A 2012 Transport for NSW study into rapid bus transit identified several possibilities, including 24-hour bus lanes along the kerb or median and the removal of on-street parking.

It warned that removing general traffic lanes to make way for buses would worsen congestion for other vehicles.

NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury said “something needs to be done” about Military Road, but “enhancing one mode of transport at the expense of another traditionally doesn’t tend to work”.

Doran Commercial director Rick Doran, a long-time member of the Neutral Bay Chamber of Commerce, said scrapping on-street parking would be “devastating” for businesses.

“Shoppers would lose access to parking. We don’t want to become a ghost town, just a transit lane for people who live in the northern beaches,” he said.

North Sydney Council has argued that a tunnel was the only appropriate solution. Mayor Jilly Gibson said it would “protest very strongly” against moves to create 24-hour clearways on Military Road.

“You can’t just dump problems on the municipality of North Sydney … in an attempt to solve problems from the peninsula. That’s not equitable,” she said.

The Member for Drummoyne, John Sidoti, welcomed the northern extension to WestConnex,  a tunnel the government said would emerge near the Anzac Bridge to allow M4 motorists to avoid the City West Link when travelling into the city from Parramatta.

‘‘I just couldn’t work out how the City West Link wasn’t part of the scheme in the first place,’’ he said.

‘‘You’re only as good as your information, but I thought it was a no-brainer.’’

The number of motorists expected to use the motorway – and its effect on surrounding roads – may become clear when the environmental impact statements are released later this year.

Leichhardt mayor Darcy Byrne said the roadway project looked set to become ‘‘the most grandiose thought bubble in the history of NSW’’.

‘‘When we see something more than some sketches and brochures we will be able to assess whether the latest changes to WestConnex will actually make any difference to congestion in Sydney,’’ he said.

The story North Sydney cautious about plans to fix Military Road traffic first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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