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Cahill Expressway
New South Wales
Cahill Expressway from Art Gallery Road – CN.jpg
General information
Type Expressway
Length 2.2 km (1.4 mi)
Opened 1958
Route number(s)
route number
  • Metroad 1
  • (early 1990s-2013)
Major junctions
NW end
  Sydney Harbour Tunnel (M1)
SE end
Major suburbs / towns Sydney

The Cahill Expressway is an urban freeway in Sydney and was the first freeway constructed in Australia, opening to traffic in 1958.[1] It starts from the Eastern Distributor and Cross City Tunnel in Woolloomooloo, and runs through a series of sunken cuttings and tunnels between the Royal Botanical Gardens and The Domain. It then runs on an elevated section across the northern edge of the Sydney CBD at Circular Quay, and then across the Sydney Harbour Bridge to North Sydney. It connects there to the Warringah Freeway.

It is named after the then New South Wales Premier John Joseph Cahill, who also approved construction of the Sydney Opera House. While being a vital link in the Sydney road system, it is generally not well loved by Sydneysiders, who dislike its ugly appearance and its division of the city from its waterfront.


The Cahill Expressway under construction in 1955
The Cahill Expressway viewed from the Sydney Harbour Bridge
The Cahill Expressway viewed from the vicinity of Macquarie Street, Sydney

The expressway was first proposed in 1945 as part of an overall expressway plan for Sydney. Public opposition began when the proposal was first made public in 1948, with the Quay Planning Protest Committee being formed. Despite the opposition, construction on the elevated section of the expressway went ahead in 1955. Funding was provided by the Sydney Council and the NSW Government, and the elevated section was opened on 24 March 1958. Work on the sunken section commenced almost straight away after that, and the additional section was opened on 1 March 1962.[2]

In June 2013, the Expressway was temporarily renamed the Tim Cahill Expressway in honour of Socceroo Tim Cahill, ahead of the Socceroos' 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification match against Iraq.[3]

Vital link[edit]

The expressway forms a vital link between Sydney's eastern and northern suburbs, by connecting the Eastern Distributor to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Harbour Tunnel. It allows travel directly from the airport to the northern suburbs without traffic signals, and reduces pressure on alternative cross-city routes such as Bridge St, Park St and Bathurst St. The traffic on the elevated section was also reduced by half following the opening of the Sydney Harbour tunnel in 1992.

The elevated section is a double deck, with the top deck carrying cars, and the lower deck railway lines and Circular Quay railway station. The station provides easy access to the Sydney Opera House and the Royal Botanical Gardens. The westbound lanes dip underneath the Harbour Bridge approach road, before forming a large spiral circling the Sydney Observatory to join to the Bridge in a confined space.

The expressway has a pedestrian walkway next to the traffic lanes, where great views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the CBD can be seen. It is accessible by stairs from Macquarie St, or an elevator near Circular Quay railway station. The walkway connects with the Sydney Harbour Bridge walkway. The NSW Roads and Traffic Authority offers tickets to view the New Year's Eve fireworks from the Cahill Expressway deck through a competition.[4]


The Cahill Expressway was controversial from day one. Its elevated nature, proximity to the city and utilitarian appearance meant that when the design of the elevated section was first unveiled to the public, it was described as ridiculous, ugly, unsightly and a monstrosity. This was an early example of freeway revolt.

Sydney Morning Herald writer Elizabeth Farrelly describes the freeway as 'doggedly symmetrical, profoundly deadpan, severing the city from the water on a permanent basis'.[5] The sunken section of the expressway runs between the Royal Botanical Gardens and The Domain, key green spaces in Sydney. The Botanic Gardens Trust describes the expressway as destroying the spatial relationship between the two.[6]

Demolition of the expressway has been proposed in the past, most prominently by former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating, who in 1994 offered federal funds in the amount of A$150 million toward such a project.[7] The then NSW Premier, John Fahey, rejected the proposal because of the cost and the resultant traffic problems. In 2005, the cost of demolition was estimated at more than A$1 billion, and the traffic problems resulting from the removal of the link would be severe, given the lack of alternative routes[citation needed].

However, there are precedents; for example, in San Francisco in 1985, the Board of Supervisors voted to demolish the elevated Embarcadero Freeway which similarly divided the city from its waterfront. It was subsequently demolished after being damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake. However, the Embarcardero Freeway was not a major route and could be easily replaced with a boulevard/expressway. The city of Boston also demolished a number of elevated expressways (feeding into and crossing the city) after building a 10-lane underground expressway in a project dubbed The Big Dig. The project, at the time the largest single civil engineering project in US history, took more than a decade to complete at a cost of USD14.6 billion.

Jeffrey Smart painting[edit]

One of Australian artist Jeffrey Smart's most famous works is Cahill Expressway (1962). The painting shows a stylised view of the Cahill Expressway tunnel and approach road, with a single man shown at the side of the image. The painting shows the alienation many feel when faced with the infrastructure of large freeways, especially when closely juxtaposed with pedestrian scale areas.[8]

Exits and interchanges[edit]

Cahill Expressway
Northwestbound exits Distance to
Sydney Harbour Bridge
Distance to
Sydney Airport
Southeastbound exits
End Cahill Expressway
continues as Bradfield Highway
to North Sydney / Newcastle
1 13 Start Cahill Expressway
from Bradfield Highway
Newcastle, Brisbane
Sydney Harbour Tunnel
2 12 Sydney CBD
Conservatorium Road
Sydney CBD
Macquarie Street
2.5 11.5 no exit
Start Cahill Expressway
continues from Eastern Distributor
Potts Point, Woolloomooloo
Cowper Wharf Roadway / Sir John Young Crescent
End Cahill Expressway
continues as Eastern Distributor
to Wollongong / Canberra
Sydney (Kingsford Smith) Airport

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "1998 Special Article - The State of New South Wales - Timeline of History". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 2007-01-28. 
  2. ^ "How to Build a Street". Sydney Streets. City of Sydney. Retrieved 2007-01-28. 
  3. ^ The fast road to Brazil: Cahill's personal route to Rio by Thomas O'Brien (Sydney Morning Herald, 17 June 2013)
  4. ^ "New Year's Eve in your city". Today. Channel Nine. Retrieved 2007-01-28. 
  5. ^ "Opening up the Cahill Expressway won't be a dynamic change". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2002-12-03. Retrieved 2007-01-28. 
  6. ^ "History". Botanic Gardens Trust. NSW Department of Environment and Conservation. Retrieved 2007-01-28. 
  7. ^ "Cahill Expressway Demolition". Legislative Council Hansard (Extract). Parliament of New South Wales. 1994-09-15. Retrieved 2007-01-28. 
  8. ^ Corkery, Noel. "Re:Engineering The Landscape" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-08-15. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Cahill Expressway at Wikimedia Commons

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cahill_Expressway — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.
1965 videos foundNext > 

Victoria Road SR40 eastbound (Devlin St, Ryde to Cahill Expressway, Sydney)

Cahill Expressway No Entry [Explicit Language]

Woman tries to cut across to go through to the No Entry Bus lane I dont know why I was shouting lol.

Woolloomooloo to Cahill Expressway

CAHILL EXPRESSWAY ACCIDENT 2-2-12 - dashcam 2 car and a bus pile up 540PM SYDNEY

BEST VIEWED FULL SCREEN - The Rangerover hits the Beetle around 6.5 seconds in.... beetle gets knocked out of the lane, into the next lane both cars were pre...

P Plater crashes car on Cahill Expressway in head on accident

A P Plater driving a Holden Vectra has collided head on with another motorist after driving in the wrong direction on the Cahill expressway & Sydney Harbour ...

Cahill Expressway, Harbour Bridge, Watson Bay, Old South Head Road Motorcycling, Sydney Australia

1 Jan, 2013.

2 Liftronic MRL Traction elevators at Circular Quay and Cahill Expressway, Sydney

Filmed on May 16, 2011 These are the featured elevators on Liftronic's website (liftronic.com.au). They are Liftronic UniTronic Type II Bottom Drive MRL Trac...

Sydney - Harbour Bridge from Cahill Expressway

This video is taken from the elevator that links the viaduct of the Cahill Expressway to the ground plaza on Circular Quay.

Two Liftronic MRL Traction elevators at Circular Quay and Cahill Expressway, Sydney

Filmed on January 18, 2012 These elevators are nice and smooth. These elevators are not far from Circular Quay train station. Brand: Liftronic Type: Unitroni...

Sydney 2013 fireworks Cahill expressway

free tickets for the night, with the best view i could ever imagine..

1965 videos foundNext > 

24 news items

Sydney Morning Herald

The Australian
Tue, 21 Oct 2014 06:07:30 -0700

Before our first meeting, we walked around the site, moving up from Woolloomooloo Bay over the grassed roof of the disused naval oil reservoir and then the land bridge over the Cahill Expressway to our entrance on Art Gallery Road, before moving around ...

Architecture and Design

Architecture and Design
Tue, 21 Oct 2014 21:04:49 -0700

Plans to double the size of the Art Gallery of NSW are gaining momentum with its director announcing 12 Australian and international architectural practices as potential designers for the project. The expansion is a major part of the 'Sydney Modern ...
Sat, 18 Oct 2014 16:11:49 -0700

Participants will take off at North Sydney about 6am, ride across the bridge, along the Cahill Expressway and continue through the Royal Botanic Gardens to the Rocks and Pyrmont. The longer routes will finish at Sydney Olympic Park. The event ...
Same Same
Tue, 21 Oct 2014 15:18:45 -0700

When Gough heard my last name, he asked me if I was related to the former NSW Premier J.J. Cahill (believe it or not the Cahill Expressway was not named after me.) I advised him no but said that the former premier and my father shared the same name.
NSW Police Online (press release)
Fri, 19 Sep 2014 11:45:00 -0700

Major road closures include the Sydney Harbour Bridge, including approaches, Bradfield Highway and Cahill Expressway; Bridge Street, College Street, Hickson Road, Macquarie Street, Oxford Street, Alfred Street South, Lavender Street, Anzac Parade, ...

Brisbane Times

Brisbane Times
Thu, 16 Oct 2014 05:45:00 -0700

The Cahill Expressway slams near and underneath, laughing like a vandal, yet still, surrounded by all this, there she sits: Still. Serene. Some kind of serendipity. Have you been down to the garden lately? Near the ocean or the city? Have you dipped a ...

Good Food

Good Food
Mon, 13 Oct 2014 14:00:00 -0700

It's such a big Sydney hit – the harbour, the ferries, the bridge, the house, the cruise ships, right down to the Jeffrey Smartness of the Cahill Expressway. A lot of restaurants have great views, but this? The view from the terrace at Cafe Sydney isn ...

The Daily Telegraph

The Daily Telegraph
Sun, 12 Oct 2014 20:40:55 -0700

Summer Hill; Old Canterbury Road; SCHEDULED ROAD WORKS · Sydney; Cahill Expressway &... SCHEDULED ROAD WORKS · Sydney CBD; Various locations i... Geotechnical Invest... Frenchs Forest; Wakehurst Parkway; SCHEDULED ROAD WORKS ...

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