The NSW government has admitted Sydney residents should be braced for “chaos” when it closes one of the city’s busiest streets tonight to begin construction work for a light rail track through the CBD.
Transport and infrastructure minister Andrew Constance said city traffic was already “well and truly stuffed because of congestion now” and was heading into “uncharted territory” with the closure of George Street between King and Market streets at 8pm tonight.
“There is going to be a completely different change in terms of car use into the CBD,” he said.
George Street accounts for 25% of the CBD’s north-south road capacity, and used by around 700 cars an hour. Closures further along the roadway will follow in coming months, with the section between Market and Park streets closing on December 3.
Buses were diverted away from the street on October 4 and the city has continued to operate reasonably smoothly since the changes were implemented.
Constance said he’s expecting a potential traffic jam in the city this evening as motorists attempt to be the last to drive down the thoroughfare before it shuts this evening.
“Light rail will change how we travel through the city and all road users need to be prepared to accommodate major construction work,” the minister said.
Just how the city will react to the changes will be unclear until Monday morning’s peak hour.
Roads minister Duncan Gay said motorists can expect delays if they head into the city.
“We need motorists to re-time their journey away from the peak, or ideally swap the car for public transport. If people need to drive, use the new preferred routes on the CBD edge – don’t drive down George Street to the closure point,” he said.
The government has produced a map (below) of the best routes for motorists to use.
Buses may also suffer increased delays as traffic reroutes.
Minister Gay said the government was still “considering” the NRMA’s proposal to reduce the toll on the cross city tunnel during the three-year construction period.
CBD coordinator-general Marg Prendergast said that while the street will be closed to cars, pedestrians are welcome and it will be “business as usual” for retailers along the prime shopping strip.
“We will continue to monitor and adjust arrangements throughout the CBD as we go through this difficult period of change,” she said.
“Those who must drive to the CBD need to seriously consider arriving and departing before or after the peak and they need to devise new plans that involve using the likes of College Street, Eddy Avenue, the Western Distributor, Cahill Expressway and the Cross City Tunnel.”
The $2 billion, 12km light rail route, which runs from Circular Quay south-east to Randwick and Kingsford, brings rail back to George Street 65 years after the tram network was ripped up. It’s due to be completed in 2018 and begin operating in early 2019.
A map of how to navigate the city is produced below.
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