At one stage the reality of living in Brisbane traditionally meant that trips to and throughout the city, were only possible if planned hours in advance.
In answer to designing new road links to combat heavy road congestion, one of the key approaches was to look underground. Major tunnels are a new phenomenon for the city of Brisbane and were constructed to ease the growing number of vehicles regularly coming to a standstill above ground.
Billions of dollars have gone into Brisbane’s tunnel systems and now tens of thousands of vehicles use them every day with varying degrees of ease and success. The tunnel routes have steadily become a heavily depended upon network of roads that provide direct access for drivers to some of Brisbane’s key facilities and newest developments.
A look at the key infrastructure of the city reveals the committed determination of civil engineering professionals to meet the challenges of urban growth with underground transport that frees up space on ground level by directing traffic underground and out of sight.
One of the earliest underground projects, The Clem Jones Tunnel (Clem 7), was delivered as a ‘public-private partnership’, beginning in 2006 and reaching completion in 2010. The tunnel consists of 308,000 tonnes of concrete tiles, 192 kilometres of electrical cable, 120 jet fans, 166 emergency phones and about 2,000 lights.
Its total length is approximately 6.8 kilometres and connects to major roads including:
- Airportlink M7 tunnel
- Lutwyche Road, Bowen Hills
- Inner City Bypass, Bowen Hills
- Pacific Motorway, Woolloongabba
- Ipswich Road, Woolloongabba
- Shafston Avenue, Kangaroo Point
The Clem 7’s biggest benefit to the city is the fact that it allows drivers to travel 60 metres underground at a speed of 80 kilometres per hour from Brisbane’s inner north to the southern and eastern suburbs, bypassing the Brisbane CBD. This bypass gives drivers the opportunity to avoid up to 24 different sets of traffic lights. Reducing the original congestion of the area and providing daily commuters with an accessible route through and to the city.
The Clem 7 was named after Clem Jones AO (1918 – 2007), who as Brisbane’s longest serving Lord Mayor, who held the mantle for 14 years. Jones’ professional life began in the development industry, including many property developments in Brisbane, and he used this know-how during his time as Mayor to bring about much needed change to the industry and cityscape.
Initially, the Clem 7 struggled to find the mass patronage from commuters that the Government expected. Some drivers reported the tunnel’s exits hard to navigate while also finding problems with merging. Others objected to what was considered an extremely high toll charge that felt more in place in international cities with greater populations.
Meanwhile, at an administration level, Brisbane officials at the helm of the project were blamed for incorrectly projecting the growth of cars on the road, and building the tunnel using a Sydney or Melbourne model rather than considering the needs and wants of the Brisbane driver.
Rivercity Motorway Group, who were responsible for the construction of Clem 7, spent billions on the project and were reportedly barely receiving a return on investment. In 2010, they went into receivership and the deed to the Clem 7 went to Queensland Motorways, who shall now retain the right to toll the CLEM7 for a 38-year concession period before handing over the reins to Brisbane City Council.
Despite the drawbacks, the Clem 7 soon settled into a rhythm in Brisbane, and now some of Brisbane’s major destinations are easily accessible via this tunnel, like the Brisbane Airport, major shopping centres, The Royal Brisbane Hospital, and the RNA Showgrounds. In addition, the city has attributed a significant reduction in traffic from existing city roads to the high usage of the Clem7.
Linking the Clem 7 and Legacy way tunnels (via the Inner-City Bypass) to the Brisbane Airport and Australia TradeCoast precinct is The AirportlinkM7. The 6.7 km road and tunnel system also connects to the northern arterials of Gympie and Stafford Roads and allows commuters to avoid up to 14 sets of traffic lights and reduce travel time by up to 88%.
AirportlinkM7 contains the most up-to-date and innovative traffic technology in Australia, which is used at each entrance at Bowen Hills, Kedron and Toombul. This includes a ‘real time’ travel sign showing the exact number of minutes it will take a driver and their vehicle to make it through the tunnel allowing commuters the ability to gauge travel time and plan accordingly.
Mentioned earlier, Legacy Way is a 4.6 km long tunnel that connects the Western Freeway at Toowong with the Inner City Bypass (ICB) at Kelvin Grove. Designed and constructed by Transcity, an integrated team comprising of companies BMD Constructions, Ghella and Acciona, Legacy Way began in 2011 and was opened to traffic in 2015.
It’s biggest selling point is its ability to provide motorists with a four-minute journey – at 80 kilometres per hour – between the Western Freeway and the ICB, and aims to reduce traffic congestion on alternative routes such as Milton Road and Coronation Drive. The streamlined along Legacy Way also allows motorists to avoid seven sets of traffic lights and other possible delays such as major roundabouts and school zones.
The tunnel consists of two separate parallel road tunnels, each with two lanes of traffic, a ventilation system to manage air quality and safety systems like emergency exits and fire protection and monitoring systems. After receiving a Federal Government commitment of $500 million, Legacy Way became Brisbane City Council’s latest non-property development built to enhance the sustainability of the area.
Supporting the ‘Legacy’ became a charitable focus for the infrastructure projects of the city. In honour of our serving men and women, Legacy Way was named for those who have served in the Australian Defence Force and the families left behind. Its name refers to the ‘Legacy’ charity, an organisation run by volunteers since 1923 that provides services to Australian families suffering financially or socially during or after defence force service. One cent for every toll collected from vehicles entering Legacy way is donated to the charity meaning that the city uses its infrastructure to give back to those who have fought hard for our way of life. Traffic congestion and all.
Legacy Way, as well as the Clem 7 and the Airport Link Tunnel, is part of the TransApex plan, Council’s long-term plan to relieve congestion on Brisbane’s arterial roads and improve cross-city connectivity. Council hopes to see more than 120,000 vehicle movements removed from Brisbane’s surface roads each day, and to achieve that goal they have worked to deliver $10 billion in infrastructure projects over the past ten years.
With such a focus on underground travel and a host of successful infrastructure proving this is indeed the way forward for Brisbane transport, the next few years shall no doubt bring forth new and improved methods of underground travel.