“This is a history-making legacy project that will deliver safer and more efficient journeys for locals, tourists and freight travelling between the Central West and the east coast,” he said.
“The tunnel will reduce congestion and improve safety for local residents, tourists and freight operators.”
The NSW government has already indicated it wants Commonwealth funding for the Blue Mountains tunnel. The highway also includes a duplication between Katoomba to Blackheath, with early works starting in 2023.
The federal government last year committed $2 billion to the Great Western Highway upgrade. A senior NSW government source said while the benefit-cost ratio of the project was well below 1, it would be difficult to toll the highway given there were not many viable alternative routes.
Falinski said he was open to both projects being completed, but wanted the state government to prioritise the long-touted Northern Beaches Link.
“I think it’s really important that we connect regions and major urban centres a lot better … where is the greatest productivity uplift that you can get in terms of investment in road transport? The Northern Beaches sticks out like a sore thumb every time,” he said.
He also added that state government toll relief programs, such as providing free car registration for motorists who pay more than $1400 in tolls in a year, were a major help.
The Herald revealed earlier this year the Perrottet government was set to push back some major infrastructure projects amid mounting costs and labour pressures exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Projects without an investment decision, including the Beaches Link, are among those most likely to be pushed back.
Falinski said he understood the pressures the state government was facing amid a building boom across Australia’s east coast, adding he had been assured by state counterparts the Beaches Link would be “first off the drawing board” once circumstances improved.
“At the moment the biggest concern up here is we’re all hanging out for it start,” he said of the road project.