SYDNEY (XINHUA) - The government of the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) has committed to the construction of what will be the nation's longest road tunnel that will stretch across the Blue Mountains on Sydney's western edge.
The proposal confirms an 11km, toll-free tunnel, from Blackheath to Little Hartly, and promises to reduce travel times by up to 30 minutes.
"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," said Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole on Sunday.
He said the tunnel would reduce congestion and improve safety for locals, and allow easier access for freight being delivered into the state's rural centre.
The tunnel would cut through a series of mountains with two lanes in each direction, providing an alternative to existing winding and steep roadways.
The Blue Mountains is home to Australia's most visited national park. Before the pandemic, the park saw an estimated 4 million visitors per year, according to a report from the Blue Mountains Economic Enterprise.
NSW Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Sam Farraway said the Blue Mountains tunnel would help connect Sydney with western NSW while also boosting tourism and population growth in the region.
"The straighter alignment will improve road safety through the mountains and the tunnel will help unlock the potential of western NSW, for the benefit of all residents and businesses in this important part of the state."
The construction of the tunnel will begin at the start of next year. The NSW government is due to hold a series of information sessions for local residents in May, and will later hold formal consultations with community stakeholders.