It was originally envisaged that the Tonkin Highway Stage 3 Extension from Byford to Jarrahdale Rd would be nearing completion right about now, at a tidy sum of $505 million.
The federal government committed $404 million to the project nearly five years ago, and the state government put forward the remaining $101 million just after.
The extension of the Tonkin Highway has been a feature of the Western Australian Government’s Metropolitan Regional Scheme for many decades; in 2019, the Australian Infrastructure Audit ranked the corridor among the 10 most congested roads in Perth during rush hour.
In 2020 there were calls from the community and former Darling Range member Alyssa Hayden to fast-track the project to support jobs in the midst of the pandemic.
But the extension was missing from a list of 24 major projects given priority at the end of April 2020.
In response, Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the government shared the community’s desire to expedite the delivery of the extension.
“We are keen to fast-track this project but are dependent on the Federal Environmental Authority returning the results from its environmental assessment,” she said.
But that was three-and-a-half years ago, and the project cost has now doubled to $1 billion – due to scope changes and construction industry pressures, according to the Auditor General.
The federal and state governments have now committed $768 million and $315 million respectively.
And shovels could still be a while off.
“Two Tonkin Highway projects (Grade Separation and Stage 3 Extension) have had their start and completion dates deferred to smooth the state’s pipeline of works and ease construction industry pressures,” the Auditor General said in the October 2023 Transparency Report.
But it’s not all bad news.
On Wednesday last week, Minister Saffioti visited the future Tonkin Highway Extension site to announce that an Expression of Interest has just been released for contractors to tender for the project, moving one step forward.
The plan is to extend the highway south by 14km to meet up with the South West Highway at Jarrahdale Rd.
Surrounding roads will be connected to the Tonkin Highway with grade separated interchanges at Thomas Road and Bishop Road, and roundabouts at Orton Road, Mundijong Road and South Western Highway.
Underpasses will be provided at Abernethy Road and Shanley Road, and a bridge over Wright Road.
Thomas Road will be duplicated from Kargotich Road to Wungong South Road to address traffic congestion, improve road safety, and cater for the growing population east, north and south of Byford.
Cyclists and pedestrians will benefit from a Principal Shared Path on the eastern side of Tonkin Highway, with connections at Thomas Road, Orton Road, Bishop Road, Mundijong Road and South Western Highway, along with other local roads.
Horse riders will be able to safely cross the new highway via equine underpasses at Gossage Road, Abernethy Road and Shanley Road, as well as additional connectivity across Thomas Road.
The state government said works are expected to support around 2,020 direct and indirect jobs during the construction phase.
“This long-awaited southern extension of Tonkin Highway represents the largest investment this corridor has ever seen, and has been planned for several years, to ensure the project delivers maximum benefits for road users and the broader community,” Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said.
“Extending Tonkin Highway will improve efficiency of truck movements and ensure heavy vehicles are diverted away from growing residential areas like Byford.”
Member for Darling Range Hugh Jones said he was looking forward to the improved safety this would bring for the local community.
“The Tonkin Highway Extension project will relieve pressure on local roads around Byford, Cardup, Mundijong and Oakford, increasing safety and easing traffic pressure and travel times for the local community,” he said.
“I look forward to seeing our fast-growing suburbs better connected to jobs and education opportunities, and our local roads become safer places for our local families.”