A NEW report on the planned Great Western Highway upgrade near Lithgow provides responses to questions from the public about why Bells Line of Road isn't the focus, whether the travel time savings make the project worth it and why a proposed tunnel isn't being built first.
As well, the report provides more detail on the speed limit that is planned along the upgraded section.
The Submissions Report and Community Consultation Report on the Little Hartley to Lithgow section (of the overall multi-billion-dollar Great Western Highway upgrade from Lithgow to Katoomba) was released in late June.
It follows the public display of the Review of Environmental Factors and concept design for the west section (Little Hartley to Lithgow) of the upgrade.
Transport for NSW says it received submissions from 188 "stakeholders".
Several of those respondents, according to the submissions report, suggested that a route following Bells Line of Road should be the preferred option for an upgraded link between Lithgow and Sydney, suggesting the cost would be lower.
According to the response in the submissions report, "the Great Western Highway is the key corridor for transporting goods and people between the Central West and Sydney and traffic volumes are expected to continue to increase".
"Even if the Bells Line of Road was upgraded - and early indications suggest this would be at a cost far in excess of this [Great Western Highway] program - significant traffic volumes would still remain on the Great Western Highway," the response says.
"An upgrade of the Bells Line of Road would also potentially have a significant impact on the World Heritage Area and has extremely challenging terrain.
"Upgrading the Bells Line of Road remains a longer term priority for the NSW Government."
A number of respondents do not believe the travel time savings justify the highway upgrade.
The response provided says road users, once the highway has been upgraded between Katoomba and Lithgow, "will save at least 10 minutes in travel time and over 95 kilometres would be two lanes each way between Emu Plains and Wallerawang".
"In addition to through traffic time savings, separating long distance and heavy vehicles from local traffic, pedestrians and cyclists will improve road safety by improving local connections via the service roads while limiting the need for locals to turn into high speed traffic travelling along the new Great Western Highway," the response says.
"The highway will be able to support safer and more productive vehicles to help unblock the east-west chokepoint going to and from the Central West and Sydney."
In terms of whether the proposed tunnel from Little Hartley to Blackheath should be built first, the response provided says the tunnel will be "the most complex and time-consuming section" of the upgrade.
"Taking advantage of the long development period for tunnel projects, the East and West Sections [Katoomba to Blackheath and Little Hartley to Lithgow] can be developed and delivered before the completion of the Central Section [the tunnel] and meet the Government's and community's expectations," the response says.
In terms of the speed limit, the response in the submissions report says the posted speed at South Bowenfels will remain unchanged at 80 kilometres per hour after the upgrade is completed.
However, "the remainder of the highway between Forty Bends and the bottom of Victoria Pass will be posted between 90 and 100 kilometres per hour".
Construction on the Little Hartley to Lithgow section is set to start by early next year.