Drilling to test the hardness of rock in preparation for tunnels on the Coffs Harbour Bypass is underway.
Drilling to test the hardness of rock in preparation for tunnels on the Coffs Harbour Bypass is underway.

Drilling looking good for tunnels

Drilling to test the hardness of rock in preparation for tunnels on the Coffs Harbour Bypass is underway.

A community newsletter says 'so far the tests are positive, with the rock quality good for the tunnel design'.

This will come as a relief for the Coffs Harbour community who have campaigned so hard to see tunnels, and not cuttings, at Shephards Lane, Roberts Hill and Gatelys Road.

For years the community had been expecting tunnels until shocked by the release of a Preferred Concept Design in September 2018 showing cuttings.

It was considered a win for people power when the EIS was released in September last year showing tunnels.

RELATED: Action group ready for 'world war three' if tunnels are not part of the final product.

Over the past few months Transport for NSW has been conducting drilling at Shephards Lane, Roberts Hill and Gatelys Road tunnel, and the two twin bridges over the North Coast Railway and Shephards Lane overbridge, testing the hardness of the rock in preparation for tunnel building and to assess the distribution and movement of groundwater in the soil and rocks.

Coffs Harbour Bypass
Coffs Harbour Bypass

With 2020 the long-promised start date for the project hopes are fading there will be much actual construction work with these preparatory geotechnical investigations still underway.

RELATED: Expectations for 2020 start date are fading

Potholing, to find and check the underground utilities' horizontal and vertical locations, has also recently commenced.

The work is carried out using a water vacuum excavator to dig potholes, using high-pressure water to reduce and loosen the soil.

The wet soil and mud slurry is removed to a spoil tank using a powerful vacuum. A hole, typically 300mm square or 150-200mm in diameter, is common and backfilled within 24 hours.

The geotechnical tests and potholing have been taking place in areas that will not impact on Aboriginal cultural heritage or sensitive environmental areas.

DON'T DELAY: The Coffs Bypass Action Group wants to see a new concept plan reflecting Mr Singh's commitment tunnels.
The community and Coffs Harbour City Council campaigned strongly for tunnels, not cuttings.

Submissions report coming soon

In september last year the long-awaited Environmental Impact Study (EIS) went on display.

RELATED: Diary shuffling and 3D models latest in bypass battle

More than 180 180 submissions were received via the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) Major Projects' website. The Submissions report collates the community submissions received and provides a response to the issues raised during the EIS.

In November 2019 design changes, including changes to the Englands Road and Korora Hill interchanges were displayed to the community.

Twenty nine submissions were made directly through the Coffs Harbour bypass project email. The Amendment Report outlines and assesses the design changes that were an outcome of feedback received from the community on the EIS.

Both the Amendment report and the Submissions report will be submitted to DPIE and made available publicly.

DPIE will review the reports to reach a decision on the project. The Minister for Planning will then determine if the project is approved. If the Minister approves the project it will be constructed and operated in accordance with the mitigation measures described in the EIS, Submissions report, the Amendment Report and the Minister's Conditions of Approval.