Traffic gridlock and general motorist confusion came last Friday with the official opening of the $862 million Tintenbar to Ewingsdale section of the Pacific Highway.
In a feat of unusual engineering, northbound motorists seeking to visit Byron Bay found themselves directed even further north to the Mullumbimby turnoff and the Tyagarah overpass before they could come back south to the Bay.
On Thursday, the day before the tunnels were opened, traffic was being diverted via a roundabout at Bangalow Road back onto Hinterland Way (the old highway), causing major delays on all three roads.
Just one lane of each tunnel has opened, with works set to continue in the tunnels until Easter.
Nevertheless the politicians were joyful about the event. Acting prime minister Warren Truss said, ‘The staged opening of the 17 kilometre Tintenbar to Ewingsdale upgrade is a remarkable achievement for north coast residents and the thousands of motorists who travel along the Pacific Highway upgrade every year.’
NSW minister for roads Duncan Gay said on top of providing safety and travel time benefits, the upgrade will be one of the most iconic stretches of road delivered by the Pacific Highway upgrade.
‘The Tintenbar to Ewingsdale upgrade adds another iconic view to the Pacific Highway travel experience,’ Mr Gay said.
‘Motorists travelling northbound will experience a unique and spectacular view of Cape Byron as they emerge from the St Helena Tunnels, a key part of the upgrade.
‘Major work has been underway on the upgrade since mid-2012, and at building peak more than 685 people were employed across the project to ensure it opened to locals and visitors in this great part of the state before Christmas.
‘About 60 per cent of the Pacific Highway is now complete, and next year more than 48 kilometres of the Pacific Highway upgrade is expected to open to traffic followed by a further 83 kilometres in 2017.’