IN A surprise twist, the long-awaited F6 extension could bypass St George and Sutherland Shire's east and instead run through Menai and Alfords Point to the M5 motorway.
Roads Minister Duncan Gay said the possible change would be considered in an $11 million feasibility study of the F6 route, funded in the state budget on Tuesday.
Mr Gay said the road corridor from Loftus to St Peters, which was set aside in 1951, would most likely be confirmed by the study. However, as part of the process, including the preparation of a business case, consideration would be given to other possible routes.
Mr Gay said there was a push from the Illawarra for the F6 extension to run west towards Alfords Point before connecting with the M5 motorway.
"The F6 is not just a road for the shire — it links Sydney and Wollongong as well," he said.
"Since the route was drawn up many years ago, other roads and bridges have been built and population densities have changed.
"Most people would probably say the existing route is the best way to go, but we will use the $11 million to evaluate other options as well.
"The F6 doesn't necessarily have to join the M5 [East] at the airport.
"A lot of community people say, coming from Wollongong you could go across to Alfords Point Bridge and join the M5 further west.
‘‘The study will look at this, but I would think the big betting money would be on the existing route.’’
Mr Gay said there was ‘‘tremendous serendipity’’ in the F6 extension being studied at the same time as a business case was being developed for extending the WestConnex motorway from Tempe to Kogarah.
The WestConnex extension could link into the F6 corridor or become part of that road, he said.
Mr Gay said planners from the WestConnex Development Authority and Roads and Maritime Services would liaise.
Route option is news to NRMA
NRMA deputy president Michael Tynan said an alternative route had never come up in discussions.
‘‘It muddies the water at a time when we feel we have really got somewhere with this budget funding,’’ he said.
“Community consultation will play a key part in this and the NRMA will work hard now to ensure we get the planning right.’’
Cronulla MP Mark Speakman said the existing reservation should be used.
‘‘A corridor through the western end of the shire may well be an F6 extension, but we need a motorway through the eastern and central part of the shire that connects to the rest of the Sydney motorway network,’’ he said.
In a joint statement, Liberal MPs from St George, Sutherland Shire and the Illawarra were noncommittal about the route.
‘‘The way traffic moves through these suburbs has changed a lot since the F6 was first gazetted in the 1950s,’’ they said.
‘‘Whatever the final design ... one thing is certain: travel from southern Sydney, the Illawarra and the south coast will never be the same again.’’
The MPs said they were ‘‘thrilled’’ with the budget allocation. They said what seemed to be an urban myth was ‘‘no longer a pipe dream, thanks to our campaigning and a government committed to rebuilding NSW’’.
Back to the future
In the 1990s, the Labor-controlled Sutherland Shire Council pushed for the route from Heathcote through Menai and Alfords Point to be made a major road artery instead of building a high-level bridge at Woronora.
It would involve widening Heathcote Road between Princes Highway and New Illawarra Road, Lucas Heights, and replacing the dangerous, narrow bridge.
Other sections of the route would also need to be widened.
Capacity for additional lanes on Alfords Point Bridge was provided when it was duplicated.
What route do you think an F6 extension should take?