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Byron Shire
March 2, 2021

Gridlock greets $862m T2E highway opening

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The St Helena Tunnels the day they opened, Friday December 18, 2015. Photo Jeff ‘Tunnel Vision’ Dawson
The St Helena Tunnels the day they opened, Friday December 18, 2015. Photo Jeff ‘Tunnel Vision’ Dawson

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.’


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  1. A feat of unusual engineering indeed…….rank incompetence more like it. The keystone of the new route is the dual tunnels, to open the upgrade without 100% availability is pure political grandstanding.

    And as for ” 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.

    That’s all we need, motorists rubbernecking the view, rather than the road ahead!!!

  2. Just great NOT for locals its a nightmare to get anywhere in the shire. Top that of with the 1.2 million tourists and the approx 25,000 happy Festival goers and whose going to make money…….. Business maybe if you can find a park in the correct parking areas…plus NOT taking away community assets like our foreshores for over spill parking.
    No movement on highway for hours either way, good luck locals lets see if Money = Business or community get locked out again, from going to have brekky at there fav cafe. Or dinner at the fav restaurant. I take umbrage at our shire being turned into a police state over the Christmas holidays. We used to be able to enjoy this time of year with family and friends…….NO NOT A NIMBY JUST OVER …..promoters making money at the expense of community.

  3. I think some kind of bonus should be awarded to the clever person who decided last Thursday to allow northbound traffic on to the new road while keeping the southbound traffic on the old road. These two roads cross halfway, which meant that when they met at the roundabout at Bangalow, all the northbound and southbound highway traffic had to give way to each other. As everyone stuck in gridlock that day could attest, this was pure genius!

  4. It would be very helpful if RMS or local media would provide a map explaining the on/off ramps as confusion is widespread and many people are missing the correct turn-off and finding themselves forced to drive long stretches to get where they want to go. Signage is completely confusing and inadequate.

  5. The opening of Ewingdsale to Tintenbar highway upgrade reveals what a lost opportunity it was that no exit was constructed southbound at Bangalow. This would have been a very satisfactory defacto bypass of Byron Bay town centre for anyone going to Suffolk Park, Broken Head or even the south side of central Byron Bay.

    Maybe we could still lobby for an exit ramp. A load limit on the main street of Bangalow would prevent heavy vehicles using that route to Lismore.

  6. Would it have been too much to expect maps in the local papers showing connections to the new road a couple of weeks BEFORE it opened?

  7. Duncan Gay’s comments are both nauseating and unbelievable. The self aggrandisement and back slapping from these politicians/public servants, over what has proven to be a totally underwhelming and unsatisfactory result is nothing short of delusional. Have none of them ever traveled elsewhere in the Civilized world and seen true feats of engineering?
    I do wholeheartedly agree with Paul O’Brien’s comment on the Bypass idea. Lets lobby for it.


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