For decades the Cahill Expressway, Australia’s first freeway, which separates Circular Quay from the rest of Sydney CBD, has been a source of controversy and contempt. In 1994 then-prime minister Paul Keating offered the NSW Government federal funding to demolish it; more recently City of Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore put forward a proposal to remove the elevated freeway. Current NSW premier Dominic Perrottet is also not a fan, calling it a “scar” that “splits our amazing city from its best asset”. Over summer, his government blocked traffic to the stretch of road that runs above Circular Quay for a week-long street party.
Now, in the latest state budget, Perrottet has proposed turning the highway into a New York-style “high line”, creating more pedestrian space for people to enjoy views of the harbour from above. “While we cannot get rid of it right now, I’m delighted we can enhance it in the meantime and create one of the world’s truly great walks,” he said in a statement.
The government’s plan includes repurposing one lane of the Cahill Expressway for a walkway, planting it with native flora, installing viewing platforms, and opening eateries and bars to take advantage of the views. The plan is part of $216 million in funding the government has pledged towards beginning a revitalisation of Circular Quay as a whole.
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Under the proposal, new ferry wharves would be installed, with better waiting areas for customers and improved harbour views. And the train station – which has arguably some of the best views of any station in the world – would undergo a revamp, including widened entrances, and new lifts and escalators to the platforms.
The area would also get new shops and spots to eat, while First Fleet Park would be redesigned with grassy areas, native landscaping, water features and spaces for ceremonies and events. Cultural experiences, performances and other events could be held in a new pavilion.
Circular Quay’s waterfront promenade would also be widened to 20 metres, with more seating, shade and dedicated spaces for buskers. New public toilets and a visitor information centre would be installed, too.
The $216 million will be put towards design work, including planning approvals, an environmental impact statement and community consultation.
Find out more about the renewal process here.