RTA Overview  of Response to Submissions 
  According to  Submissison report the following were compiled by the RTA

The main issues raised by stakeholders focussed on:

• The need to protect areas of environmental significance (particularly threatened and

endangered flora and fauna).

• Engineering and design options (including alternatives such as tunnels).

• Loss of amenity and severance.

• Traffic modelling (particularly movement of B-doubles).

• Whether the commitment to bypass Mount Victoria would be honoured.

• The extent of heritage items in the study area.

 

 

Comment

The RTA is no longer considering an upgrade using the Newnes Plateau corridor. The

Department of Defence has indicated it has a long term commitment to the Marrangaroo Army

Base that provides essential facilities. This 1338 hectare site area covers the entire width of

the blue corridor. This base is used for training specialist personnel and disposing of

ammunition. Defence is very clear in its response to the corridors that a highway would not be

compatible to its activities on the base.

The RTA must make decisions based on the issues and feasibility of options. We appreciate

there was support for the Newnes Plateau corridor within the submissions received.

 

Tunnel

A considerable number of submissions made suggestions on possible route design options, in

particular a 4km tunnel to be constructed under Mount Victoria from Brown Town Oval,

travelling to Little Hartley. Comments suggested that a tunnel would:

• Effectively bypass the village of Mount Victoria.

• Mean no new impacts on the Bell, Dargan, Newnes and Clarence communities from the

Newnes Plateau option, or on the Hartley Vale community from the three other corridors.

• Avoid major impacts on wildlife corridors and on conservation areas, including the Greater

Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

• Cost considerably less than the $900m Newnes option.

• Mean no adverse impacts on tourism and recreational opportunities associated with all the

new corridors.

• Lower the construction costs by avoiding some of the difficult terrain faced by all corridor

options, and would maximise the use of the existing highway in Hartley.

• Mean that Newnes Plateau native vegetation would not be bulldozed and cleared during

construction.

Comment

While a long tunnel is unlikely to be cost effective, shorter tunnels may be considered to meet

project objectives. The RTA is investigating a tunnel under Mount York Road as part of an

option to bypass Mount Victoria.

 

 

Grades

There were some concerns about whether any of the corridors that passed through the Hartley

Valley could meet the RTA’s desired grade of 6%. A tunnel was thought to be a good solution in

achieving a grade of less than 6%.

Comment

The RTA’s preliminary investigations have indicated that grades of 6% are achievable in all of

the four confirmed corridors. Grades would be further examined at the route development phase

of the project.

Heritage

There was considerable concern about protecting heritage items (both Aboriginal and non

Aboriginal) within the study area should route options be identified within all corridors. Common

heritage items that were mentioned included:

• Aboriginal walking tracks in the Newnes Plateau.

Lawsons Pass and historic Bells Line of Road.

• Historic buildings in Little Hartley.

• Convict stockade and soldiers barracks at Hassans Wall.

• Historic buildings in Mount Victoria.

• Historic remnants of shale mining in Hartley Vale.

• Historic railway artefacts and areas near or within the Newnes corridor.

Comment

The density and significance of the heritage items within the study area is acknowledged and

reported in the Study Area Investigations and Corridor Identification report (RTA 2008). Heritage

is an important consideration in the development of the proposed upgrade and further heritage

investigations will be undertaken as the preliminary environmental investigations progress.

These investigations will assist with development of feasible route options, which will aim to

avoid any potential impacts on items of heritage significance. Where impacts on heritage cannot

be avoided, mitigation measures aimed at minimising the impacts upon heritage items would be

developed following the selection of the preferred route. These considerations will be reported

on as the project proceeds.

 

Social impacts

There were concerns that a highway upgrade would have adverse impacts on the social

cohesion of Mount Victoria and Little Hartley.

Many community members were also concerned about the potential impacts on the amenity of

the existing environment including visual aspects, noise, character and ambience and local

access.

One concern was that a highway upgrade would result in increased noise from passing

vehicles, especially trucks.

Issues were also raised about loss of tourism and recreational opportunities as a result of the

highway upgrade, particularly in the Newnes Plateau area.

A number of submissions expressed concern about adverse impacts to residents in Bell,

Dargan, Clarence, Newnes Junction and Marrangaroo, especially the inconvenience caused by

any construction works if the proposed corridors between Mount Victoria and Bell went ahead,

and the increase in noise and traffic.

Comment

The RTA recognises that the visual environment and landscape associated with Mount

Victoria/Mount York and the Hartley Valley is unique and of high value. The urban design and

landscape assessment undertaken to date acknowledges that it is important to protect this

environment, to ensure that the upgrade reinforces the visual features of the area, and to use

the opportunity to enhance the road user's experience of driving through this area.

The local amenity and character of the valley have been identified as a key community value

that is important to the residents of the study area. Community values will be used as a basis for

input into the development and selection process for the preferred route and will continue to be

assessed as part of the socio-economic investigations.

Further socio-economic, urban design, landscape and noise assessment will be undertaken as

part of the highway upgrade investigations.

 

Road safety

The importance of improving the safety of the highway was emphasised in a number of

submissions, especially at Forty Bends, River Lett Hill and Victoria Pass.

There were also submissions regarding the safe crossing of the highway for school children at

Mount Victoria.

A number of submissions also raised the issue of safe access to private properties located

directly on the highway particularly if there were to be an increase in traffic, especially heavy

vehicles.

Comment

The RTA recognises the need to address the accident history in this area, with one of the

primary project objectives being to improve road safety. All of the four confirmed corridors

would provide benefits in this respect. All of these corridors would also bypass the village of

Mount Victoria, which would be anticipated to remove the main conflicts between local and

through traffic and provide safer crossing opportunities for school children.

Safety improvements for private property access would be addressed as part of the concept

design for the preferred route, but would typically involve a reduced number of direct access

points to the highway, rationalised intersections and improved sight distances for safer turning

movements in and out of properties. Appropriate access arrangements would be developed in

consultation with landowners.

Engineering risk

A number of comments were made about the waterlogged or swampy soil conditions in the

Hartley Valley and whether the RTA had adequately taken into account the fill and engineering

required to manage this.

Comments were also made about construction and cost issues in relation to mine subsidence

and old coal and shale oil workings.

Comment

As the preliminary environmental investigations progress, hydrological and geotechnical

investigations will be undertaken to inform the development of feasible route options and

minimise the engineering risk associated with construction on wet soils and historic coal and

shale oil workings. The hydrological and geotechnical investigations will also assist in providing

cost estimates for the feasible route options.

Process

The main submissions relating to process were concerned with the bypass of Mount Victoria.

Many people were unclear as to the RTA’s commitment to bypass Mount Victoria given that the

orange and red corridors were part of the study. Questions were also asked as to how the RTA

would actually bypass Mount Victoria and asked for more detail than that provided in the

November 2008 community update.

Some submissions asked how the orange corridor met the project objectives relating to the

bypass of Victoria Pass and Forty Bends.

There were also questions about the consistency of the SKM and Cardno studies, including the

planning software used and the method of assessment.

 

Many people were concerned about the timeframes for selecting a preferred route and wanted

clarification on whether the RTA, the Minister or the Australian Government would make the

final decision.

Comment

All four confirmed corridors would bypass the township of Mount Victoria, River Lett Hill, and

replace the steep grades at Victoria Pass. Further detail as to how this would be achieved is

provided in the April 2009 community update or on the project website at www.rta.nsw.gov.au.

The Cardno and SKM reports had differences because the two investigations had different

objectives. The objective of the Cardno study was to report on the feasibility of a Newnes

Plateau corridor. The objective of the SKM study was to identify key environmental constraints

in the initial Hartley Valley study area. Further environmental studies are proposed as part of

the route development stage for all corridors.

The timeframe for the selection of a preferred route reflects the community consultation,

technical investigation and design effort required for a project of this magnitude. The NSW

Minister for Roads would make the decision on the preferred route based on a recommendation

by the RTA.

Central West Transport Needs study

Many community members were keen to learn the findings of the Central West Transport Needs

study and were concerned the RTA was continuing with the Mount Victoria to Lithgow upgrade

project before the study is finalised.

Comment

The Central West Transport Needs study was commissioned as a strategic assessment of

transport needs for the whole of the NSW Central West. Councils have received draft final

report presentations.

The Cardno investigations for the Newnes Plateau corridor study used the same traffic and

population growth assumptions as the Central West Transport Needs study. The findings of the

transport needs study will be considered as the Mount Victoria to Lithgow investigations

continue.

Transport issues

A large number of submissions objected to any increase in heavy vehicle movements in the

Blue Mountains and opposed the removal of the restriction of 26m B-doubles across the

mountains.

Many submissions discussed the approach to freight movements in the mountains. A number of

comments suggested that the rail network should be improved and that any funding earmarked

for a highway upgrade should be allocated to improving rail instead.

A number of submissions considered that insufficient traffic modelling and projections had been

undertaken. There was concern that the corridor options utilising the Darling Causeway would

mean that a large amount of extra traffic would divert to the Bells Line of Road, which already

has a high accident rate. Many submissions stated that the travel time savings for the Newnes

corridor option were not sufficient to attract traffic away from Mount Victoria and the existing

Great Western Highway. These submissions requested that similar investigations to that

undertaken by Cardno for the Newnes Plateau investigation be undertaken for corridors in the

original study area.

Comment

One of the project objectives of the Mount Victoria to Lithgow upgrade is to improve freight

efficiency. Any upgrade would be required to be designed to Australian standards which would

accommodate access for 26 metre B-double vehicles.

However, before 26 metre B-double vehicles could use the highway, the NSW Government

would need to approve the route for B-double usage. The decision to permit 26m B-double

vehicles to access this section of the Great Western Highway is a matter for the NSW

Government after consideration of the RTA’s route assessment guidelines for B-doubles.

The comments in submissions regarding freight movement by rail are noted. The Central West

Transport Needs Study is considering strategic transport needs including rail options for freight.

The next step for considering traffic impact is to model the four corridor options (route options

within). This will help the community to compare the route options.

 

Cost

Many submissions commented on the high cost associated with the Newnes Plateau option and

did not think that government funding would be forthcoming. There were also queries about

costings for options in the Hartley Valley corridors.

Comment

The cost estimates for the Newnes Plateau corridor option were strategic cost estimates based

on the current RTA requirements for estimating.

Cost estimates will be further developed in the next phases of the project and will be an input

into the selection of a preferred route

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4. Next steps

The RTA is inviting the community to be involved in developing route options by participating in

a series of four workshops. Starting in May 2009, the workshops will involve the community in

actually thinking through and drawing up route options.

At these workshops the RTA and community would:

• Examine more information on highway design criteria and principles.

• Identify the key issues in the confirmed corridors that may influence the development of

route options.

• Develop route options, with technical specialists on hand to assist.

• Jointly consider the route options that have been developed for impacts and benefits.