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For the painting, see Cahill Expressway (Smart).
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
Highway system
Highways in Australia
National HighwayFreeways in Australia
Highways in New South Wales

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 Roads & 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]

LGA Location km mi Destinations Notes
North Sydney North Sydney 0 0 Warringah Freeway (M1) Northern expressway terminus (southbound lanes)
0.5 0.3 Mount Street – no exit Southbound entry only
0.6 0.4 High Street – no exit Southbound entry only
Sydney Harbour 1.3–
Sydney Harbour Bridge
Sydney Sydney 2.6 1.6 Western Distributor (A4) south / Bradfield Highway north – North Sydney, Newcastle, Sydney CBD Northern expressway terminus (northbound lanes); incomplete interchange: northbound exit to Bradfield Highway and southbound exit to Western Distributor only
3.3 2.1 Conservatorium Road – Sydney CBD Northbound entry and southbound exit
3.5 2.2 Sydney Harbour Tunnel (M1) – Newcastle, Brisbane Northbound exit and southbound entry; Route transition: M1 continues south along Cahill Expressway
3.9 2.4 Sir John Young Crescent – no exit Northbound entry only
4.1 2.5 Shakespeare Place – no exit Southbound entry only
4.2 2.6 Cowper Wharf Roadway – Sydney CBD, Woolloomooloo Southbound exit only
4.4 2.7 Eastern Distributor (M1) – Wollongong, Canberra Southern expressway terminus; continues south as Eastern Distributor
  •       Route transition

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.
856 videos foundNext > 

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.

Cahill Expressway

Cahill Expressway from the pylon lookout of Sydney Harbour Bridge.

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 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 ...

Liftronic MRL Traction Lifts to Cahill Expressway @ Circular Quay

These lifts were installed to give access from Circular Quay to the Cahill Expressway. They are featured on the Liftronic website. Brand: Liftronic Type: MRL ...

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

VIVID SYDNEY 2015 Timelapse from Cahill Expressway

Sydney 2013 fireworks Cahill expressway

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

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.

856 videos foundNext > 

345 news items

Sydney Morning Herald

Sydney Morning Herald
Thu, 19 Nov 2015 20:10:48 -0800

Billions of dollars of new development around Circular Quay has sparked a renewed push for a solution to one of the city's most notorious eyesores – the Cahill Expressway. One of the area's oldest residents, AMP, which built Sydney's first skyscraper ...

Sydney Morning Herald

Sydney Morning Herald
Tue, 24 Nov 2015 05:17:33 -0800

His vision for Sydney would see Goat Island returned under native title to the original owners, and his failed attempt to bury the Cahill Expressway at Circular Quay was reinvigorated last week with AMP urging the NSW government disguise the notorious ...

Sydney Morning Herald

Sydney Morning Herald
Tue, 24 Nov 2015 22:50:45 -0800

The project will transform the underutilised site to the north of the gallery comprising two grassed concrete platforms – one over the Cahill Expressway (built 1999) and the other over disused World War II oil tanks. No land within the Royal Botanic ...
Sun, 22 Nov 2015 17:46:00 -0800

Motorists travelling into the city after the closure have been urged to use College Street when heading north or south, as well as outer city routes including Goulburn Street, Macquarie Street, the Cahill Expressway and the Western Distributor ...

Sydney Morning Herald

Sydney Morning Herald
Tue, 12 May 2015 15:04:37 -0700

Motorists have been warned to expect delays around parts of Sydney's CBD on Wednesday, and it's due to the latest instalment of the Mad Max film franchise, aptly named Fury Road. The War Rig and other vehicles from the iconic post-apocalyptic film ...

Business Insider Australia

Business Insider Australia
Mon, 23 Nov 2015 22:29:24 -0800

“For CBD commuters, please understand there may be slight delays to bus services particularly those coming from the north shore via Cahill Expressway Southbound, or the eastern suburbs past The Royal Botanic Gardens,” she said. P&O has celebrities ...

Sydney Morning Herald

Sydney Morning Herald
Sun, 15 Nov 2015 23:12:49 -0800

Motorists travelling north over the Sydney Harbour Bridge are advised to expect significant delays and allow additional travel time. Traffic is heavy on the approaches to the bridge, including the Western Distributor and Cahill Expressway over Circular ...

The Daily Telegraph

The Daily Telegraph
Mon, 11 May 2015 17:57:30 -0700

The Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Harbour Tunnel will remain open in both directions but lane eight of the bridge near the exit ramp to the Cahill Expressway will also be closed. Motorists travelling from northern Sydney to the Eastern Suburbs or to ...

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