A recent Sydney Morning Herald article (28-29 December 2019) regarding the $15 billion duplication and upgrade of the Pacific Highway (M1) the largest, regional infrastructure project in Australia. It outlined the project’s success in improving road safety from Sydney to Brisbane, including a 50% reduction in fatal crashes (source RMS website).
Safety has been the main driver of the project following two horrific accidents within three months in 1989, when over 50 people were killed. Pleas for an upgrade of the highway could no longer be ignored.
Separation from oncoming traffic has been provided via duplication of the entire highway with bypasses and better designed interchanges improving traffic flow. Fauna crossings and fences ensure local fauna can safely cross the highway without interacting with traffic.
Ewingsdale Interchange – Pacific Highway Upgrade: Tintenbar to Ewingsdale
The upgrade has set a benchmark for other infrastructure projects across Australia, providing improved access to coastal towns, but bypassing others to ensure their character and integrity is maintained.
CM+ has been a major contributor to this significant infrastructure transformation over its 20+ year period, commencing with the preparation of a 2001 Scenic Highway Strategy for the Ballina to Tweed Heads stretch of the highway. The study recognised the region’s spectacular natural and cultural landscape character and the opportunity it provided to establish a driver experience with improved environmental, social and cultural benefits.
Early studies like this one contributed to the establishment by NSW RMS of an overarching Urban Design Framework 2013 for the project, which stretches nearly 800 kilometres from Hexham, near Newcastle to Tweed Heads on the New South Wales/Queensland border.
The Urban Design Framework set out the vision, design objectives and principles that have been carried through each segment of improvement to create a unified project, including continuity of project elements to achieve a consistent visual aesthetic. Many of our projects have created exemplars for road elements used in Upgrade projects such as the throwscreens from the Yelgun to Chinderah upgrade, 2002.
Urban design has been integral in the overall design of upgrade projects, including the consideration given to a contextual approach to placement of the road in the landscape, and to the driver ‘experience’. Each project is designed to be laterally integrated within its environment and the aesthetic values of the landscape are recognised and acknowledged. Each journey is seen through the driver’s eyes, with bridge spans widened to maintain views (as can been seen in the Coopernook to Herons Creek upgrade) and the landscape within, and adjacent to the highway, designed to provide a variety of open and closed views to create interest and awareness of the changing landscape has been done in the Woolgoolga to Ballina upgrade, due to open this year.
A placemaking design approach has also contributed to an improved journey, with rest stops seen as an opportunity for interpretation of local environments and surrounding communities. At a local level, the highway upgrades provide opportunities to reconnect communities, as seen in the wetlands boardwalk under the Brunswick River Bridge in northern NSW; connecting Ocean Shores to Billidnudgel and the environmentally sensitive mangrove foreshore.
Throwscreens on the Pacific Highway Upgrade: Yelgun to Chinderah
Boardwalk under the Brunswick River Bridge
The Pacific Highway Project has led NSW RMS (now TransportNSW) to develop a series of design documents that now inform the design of all road projects in NSW, including Beyond the Pavement, Urban design policy procedures and design principles 2014, Bridge Aesthetics 2019, Tunnel urban design guideline 2017, Noisewall design guideline 2016, Landscape guideline 2018.
These manuals feature many precedents from our Pacific Highway Upgrade work and other CM+ infrastructure projects, and we continue to work closely with NSW RMS, delivery partners, engineers and consultants to deliver award winning design and delivery infrastructure across Australia.
CM+ Associate and Bid Manager Elizabeth Cranfield is responsible for bid management and consultant relationships.
With additional input by Associate Director Kash Rangan.