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[ GLORY DAYS ]
WORK ON F3 FREEWAY STARTS: APRIL, 1963
The Beatles weren’t the only ones to know a little bit about long and winding
roads. The saga of the Sydney to Newcastle freeway is an amazing story, taking
35 years to complete and coming together like a giant, multi-million dollar jigsaw
Planning for the 127km freeway that links the state’s two major cities began in
the 1950s after the ﬁrst direct link between the two areas - the Paciﬁc Highway
– opened in 1930.
In 1960 the NSW government called for offers to build a tollway between the
cities and three were received, but all were unacceptable, so the government
adopted a route proposed by the then Department of Main Roads. It ran from
Wahroonga over the Hawkesbury and east of Wyong and Lake Macquarie to
Newcastle, later changed to run west of Wyong and Lake Macquarie with link
roads to Doyalson and Newcastle.
Work began in April, 1963, on a seven-kilometre section north from the
Hawkesbury River, the start of a project that would involve overcoming
considerable engineering hurdles cutting through some of the most unforgiving
terrain in NSW, removing millions upon millions of cubic metres of rock, soil and
sand, dozens and dozens of road cuttings up to 50-metres deep, construction
of 137 bridges – including the $19.5 million Mooney Mooney Bridge with a deck
higher than Sydney Harbour Bridge and the six-lane, $5.5 million Hawkesbury
River Bridge with piles sunk as deep as 85 metres below water level – ﬁlling in
disused coal mines and massive replanting and landscaping projects.
By October, 1966, the ﬁrst section of freeway had reached Calga, a distance of
15km that cost $6 million.
In 1966 work switched to the Sydney side of the Hawkesbury on the nine
kilometres between the river and Berowra, which opened in December, 1968.
The Somersby to Wallarah Creek section opened in December, 1983, costing $47
million and bypassing Wyong.
Three years later the 15km Calga - Somersby section opened at a cost of $80
million, which included the Mooney Mooney Bridge and cut 14km off the old
From the Central Coast the freeway headed west of Lake Macquarie to the
Freeman’s interchange, a 26km stretch costing $79 million that opened in two
stages, the ﬁrst in September, 1987, and the second to the interchange in 1988.
By December, 1990, the short stretch to Palmers Rd, west of Toronto, was in use.
While all this was going on at the northern end, work started on the Sydney
link to Wahroonga in February, 1984, which bypassed the Hornsby bottleneck
and took ﬁve years and $100 million to complete.
Back north, the 19km stretch from Palmers Rd to Lenaghans Drive alone
required 18 road cuttings as much as 50-metres deep and 23 bridges. It sliced
through inland of Lake Macquarie and through the foothills of Mount Sugarloaf,
taking ﬁve years to complete at a cost of $175 million. West of Newcastle the
road passed over several disused coal mines, some less than six metres below
the surface, which had to be ﬁlled in.
With the freeway reaching Lenaghans Drive a seven-kilometre link road was
run to Wallsend and, more than three decades after work began, motorists could
drive the freeway Newcastle to Sydney.
Along the way builders tried to reduce the impact on the environment,
collecting seeds from the path of the road, and west of Newcastle and Lake
Macquarie alone more than 60,000 native trees were propogated and planted.
Initially some sections of the road carried tolls, including the Hawkesbury
Bridge, but these were removed in 1990 when the federal government decreed
that all national highways should be toll free.
The freeway is now used by about 75,000 vehicles every day.
65. Long and winding road
The Mooney Mooney Bridge, far left, and the Hawkesbury Bridge under
construction and, above, the completed bridge over the Hawkesbury River.
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