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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].

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.
1393 videos foundNext > 

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

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

1 Jan, 2013.

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 ...

Sydney 2013 fireworks Cahill expressway

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

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

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

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376 news items

Herald Sun

ABC Online
Sun, 14 Dec 2014 18:30:24 -0800

All city-bound traffic travelling over the Sydney Harbour Bridge is being diverted via the Western Distributor and there is no southbound access to the Cahill Expressway, York Street or Harbour Street. Mr Wright said there was no northbound access to ...

Herald Sun

The Guardian
Sun, 14 Dec 2014 21:00:40 -0800

The Cahill Expressway was closed in both directions and traffic was diverted through the harbour tunnel. Traffic blocks were set up throughout a 1.4km long stretch of the city from Park Street to Circular Quay, bounded by George Street and Macquarie ...

Crave Online

Crave Online
Sun, 14 Dec 2014 21:03:42 -0800

The Sydney Harbour bridge reportedly remains open however, access from York Street and Harbour Street has been blocked and the the Cahill Expressway was closed in both directions. “Citybound motorists are urged to continue to avoid the Sydney CBD ...

Herald Sun

Herald Sun
Mon, 15 Dec 2014 12:08:16 -0800

#Route620N #Route650 & #Route642 that operate via Cahill Expressway will divert away fr Bridge St due to closure of Macquarie St in CBD. Retweeted by nswpolice · Dec. 15, 2014. ReplayRetweetFavorite. The Daily Telegraph · @dailytelegraph.

The Daily Telegraph

The Daily Telegraph
Sun, 14 Dec 2014 22:11:15 -0800

Traffic was also diverted, with the Cahill Expressway closed and motorists directed from the Harbour Bridge to Darling Harbour. Northern beaches buses stopped at North Sydney. Manly state Liberal MP and NSW Premier Mike Baird found his city office in ...
The Daily Telegraph
Mon, 15 Dec 2014 14:39:04 -0800

CDC bus routes 620, 650 and 642 that operate via the Cahill Expressway will divert away from Bridge St via Grosvenor St, George St and Market St. People walk out of St James station on their way to work. Picture: Getty Images Source: Getty Images ...

The Age

The Age
Sun, 14 Dec 2014 23:44:54 -0800

The Cahill Expressway - one of the main routes to the Bridge - was closed, with city-bound traffic diverted to the Domain Tunnel. This decreased traffic on the Bridge, however it was still accessible to motorists using other roads, including the ...

Sydney Morning Herald

Sydney Morning Herald
Sun, 14 Dec 2014 15:37:49 -0800

A NSW Police motorcyclist was involved in an accident with another vehicle just after 11am on the Cahill Expressway, resulting in the closure of some approaches to the bridge. The motorcyclist was treated by paramedics before the road reopened a short ...

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