IT didn’t quite come to him in a dream, but it’s a project Barney Collins sees inching closer to reality: a tunnel linking Carrington and Stockton, completing the road link around the harbour’s lip.
Or what about bridges connecting the harbour’s north and south – a proposal first floated decades ago.
Tourism leaders say both represent a connective concept whose time has come.
Mr Collins, the director of EJE Architecture, knows his tunnel plan is not shy on ambition, but he argues the benefits are there. It’s partly why the project underlies the Stockton portion of Newcastle Tourism Industry Group’s vision for the visitor economy over the next decade.
“It seemed to be the right forum to raise it,” he said.
Devised a decade ago, he said the plan would drop cars from Cowper Street at Carrington below the harbour before rising up onto Stockton’s western shore.
From there, Mr Collins said a new road could bend up towards where the bridge meets Nelson Bay Road.
“We worked out it would take 20 minutes off the trip of the airport,” Mr Collins said.
“I think Newcastle and whole Hunter region will benefit from that.”
Mr Collins said the tunnel would run just over a kilometre to achieve the right gradients to cross the harbour span of between 500 and 600 metres.
Mr Collins said the plan would have a minimal impact on the suburb itself if it came to fruition.
“The land is there to do it, it’s the easy part of that site,” he said. “You don’t go into the town. It gives you the two links so if there’s an accident on Cormorant Road, which happens regularly, it doesn’t grind everything to a halt.”
Mr Collins said the change had the potential to change how Novocastrians perceived their city, and give visitors a clearer path.
“Whether it’s on level pegging or just under the Hunter Expressway’s impact, the Hunter Expressway has changed the Hunter Valley,” he said
“That’s a big game-changer. It took the time off and then it made it so much easier for people. It will take the pressure off Sydney completely, especially if you can get an international airport. That will mean people from the Central Coast north would turn this way instead of going to Sydney.”
READ MORE: Forgotten art of bringing in visitors
The concept of linking the harbour’s northern arm is not new. The late Newcastle architect Kevin Schreiber proposed the idea more than two decades ago. A model of his plan, which would have put Calatrava-style bridges across the harbour, was predicated upon the CBD shifting to Newcastle West and the floating dock’s removal. Both have occurred.
Justin Hamilton, managing director at SHAC and a former business partner of Mr Shreiber, said the plans for spanning the harbour were worth consideration.
“Great bridges are symbolic of a great city,” Mr Hamilton said. “They become tourist landmarks and destinations in their own right, they allow an immediate sense of arrival from say a gateway international airport and they promote healthy walkable cities, especially where there is a world-class view to be admired.”
Mr Collins had discussed his proposal several times over the years but said finding the political will was as important as boring through the bedrock.
“I have no idea on cost but there must be an economy to it because they’re using it as a solution in Sydney,” he said. “I think the biggest challenges are working around the working port but also getting the politicians with the will to do it. The Memorial Walk was the same as that, it was an idea we had in 2007 and by 2015 it was built. People thought we were mad.”
Asked about the feasibility of a crossing between Carrington and Stockton, a Transport for NSW spokesman said no formal proposal had been received.
Port of Newcastle chief executive officer Geoff Crowe said the harbour’s work provided “an attraction to tourists with the constant activity of both large and small vessels and other carriers plying their trade, combined with the tugs and recreational users creating an ever-changing backdrop to many of the local offices, restaurants, cafes and bars from various vantage points around the city”.
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