Hunter Expressway, Australia
The Hunter Expressway is a 40km-long four lane expressway currently under construction in New South Wales, Australia. The dual carriageway is a link road, which will connect the New England Highway at Branxton and the F3 Freeway (also called Sydney-Newcastle Freeway) at Seahampton.
The expressway was first proposed in 1988. In the planning stage it was called the Kurri Kurri Corridor or F3 to Branxton link.
Construction of the project was started in August 2010 and is scheduled for completion by the end of 2013. The total project cost is estimated at A$1.7bn.
Upon completion, the link road will reduce the travel time between Newcastle and the Branxton Hunter Region by 28 minutes.
It will also relieve congestion on the New England Highway and provide a direct route for freight movements between Upper Hunter and the Port of Newcastle. The expressway is expected to carry about 30,000 vehicles a day.
The project is expected to create 800 local jobs during construction.
Hunter Expressway project
The Hunter Expressway is part of a major transportation infrastructure programme in the Hunter Region. The Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) of NSW are constructing the expressway in two separate sections - eastern section and western section.
The eastern section is a 13km stretch connecting the F3 Freeway and Kurri Kurri. The western section is a 27km dual carriageway connecting Kurri Kurri and Branxton.
In 2001, the design for the expressway was ready with a speed limit of 100km/h. In 2007, however, the RTA made changes to the design, including increasing the speed limit to 110km/h. The modified design was approved by the New South Wales Department of Planning.
The south-east end of the freeway will be connected to the interchange of F3 Freeway and Newcastle Link Road. This interchange will be upgraded with three additional bridges and two full interchanges.
A half interchange will be constructed between Loxford and Allandale. The project will also include A$20m utility adjustments and repairs to about 10km length of state and local roads.
The project is considered to be technically complex as the corridor has many mine subsidence areas and acid sulphates containing soils.
The 40km dual carriageway project includes construction of a total of 53 bridges at 21 sites, two rest areas and reconstruction of the South Maitland railway. The one kilometre railway reconstruction also includes a new railway bridge.
Construction of the Hunter Expressway
Work on the 13km eastern section was started in June 2010. The scope of work includes construction of three 40m high viaduct bridges and 16 other bridges.
The viaducts located 1.4-2.7km west of F3 freeway, stretch to a total length of 787m. Two million cubic metres of earth works will be carried out during the construction.
Bridge abutments have been placed for two of the bridges to be built over F3 freeway. The bridges are under construction and the piling works for the new bridges at Wallis Creek were completed in July 2011.
Major construction works on the western section have been taken up by in April 2011. The western section will include construction of 27km dual carriageway from east of Kurri to Branxton in New England Highway. It will involve construction of 22 bridges, three million cubic metres of earth works and treatment of two mine subsidence areas. As of September 2011, around 12% of earth has been moved.
Temporary roads will be built to divert the existing traffic including the traffic at Allandale interchange. The vegetation and trees in the nearby areas will be cleared. The construction water will be managed by stormwater drainage and water quality basins installed at the site.
Pre-construction works of the expressway include relocation of power lines, gas lines, telecommunications cables and water lines. The preconstruction works are estimated to cost $253m.
Financing the road improvement project
In 2009 federal budget, a funding of A$1.7bn was announced towards the Hunter Expressway construction. The Australian Government committed to fund A$1.45bn while the NSW Government will fund $200m towards the project.
RTA is building the eastern section of the expressway under an alliance contract. The A$825m eastern section is being built by Thiess in alliance with Parsons Brinckerhoff and Hyder Consulting.
In October 2010, Abigroup Contractors was awarded the design build contract for the western section of the Hunter Expressway. RTA will continue to work with Abigroup for the final design.
A 50-50 design joint venture (DJV) of SMEC and Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM) was appointed to design the freeway.
SKM will also provide proof engineering services for the eastern section of the project.
Geotechnical works for the project are being carried out by a joint venture of SMEC, Golders and Douglas Partners.