Last Friday’s breakthrough of the St Helena tunnels was a further milestone in the building of the much-needed Tintenbar to Ewingsdale section of the new Pacific Highway.
The massive project, which will entirely replace the current stretch of dangerous road, is now on track for completion by mid next year.
It can’t come soon enough for many on the north coast. Five people have died on the existing stretch of old highway since works began on its replacement in 2012, including two people in a single accident at Knockrow and a woman killed early last New Years Day morning year near Bangalow.
The twin tunnels through St Helena Hill are 434 metres long, 19 metres wide and 46 metres deep at the crest of the ridgeline.
Since work started on the tunnels in December 2012 more than 117,000 cubic metres of basalt rock has been drilled and blasted.
The Australian government committed $566.1 million to the upgrade, and the state government committed $295.9 million.
When completed, the travel time from Hexham to the Queensland border is expected to be cut by 2.5 hours.