Includes the Bondi Junction bypass

The only section of the Eastern Freeway to see the light of day - the Bondi Junction bypass, as viewed from Grafton St.

The County of Cumberland Planning Scheme 1951 saw the establishment of freeway corridor from the CBD to Old South Head Road at Bondi Junction along Moore Park Rd and Oxford Street and including a bypass of Bondi Junction. The planning scheme did not include detailed planning for the CBD, nor did it included roads in that area, however, a complimentary road layout for the central areas was adopted by the City of Sydney Planning Conference to provide a continuous network. Put together, these two plans provided for a F7 Freeway from the southern approach of the Sydney Harbour Bridge , via a viaduct over Circular Quay, a tunnel under the Botanic Gardens, a surface route via Taylor Square , Moore Park Rd and Oxford Street to an elevated bypass of Bondi Junction. The Cahill Expressway section was originally called ‘Circular Quay Overhead Roadway’ and the Woolloomooloo/Darlinghurst section was known as the Eastern Distributor. Once the expressway turned east at Moore Park Rd it was called Eastern Freeway. According to the Department of Main Roads; “the road system formed by the Cahill Expressway, the Eastern Distributor and the Eastern Freeway [was] intended to provide an unobstructed route to the eastern suburbs, as an alternative to the existing congested routes through Kings Cross and Taylor Square .”1

Basically the corridor would have swallowed Moore Park Road and the terraces on its north side, including a strip of land along the southern side of Victoria Barracks. Once Oxford Street was reached, it would have been swallowed by the freeway, along with the row of properties along its northern side. East of Ocean Street, the freeway was to deviate to the north of Grafton St, bypassing Bondi Junction and terminating at Old South Head, Bellevue Hill. Syd Einfeld Drive (the Bondi Junction bypass) was constructed in the reservation of the F7 - Eastern Freeway.

The Bondi Junction Bypass

Whilst the Cahill Expressway and Eastern Distributor ultimately came to fruition, the Bondi Junction Bypass was the only section of the Eastern Freeway to see the light of day. A 1963 report on options for the construction of the Eastern Suburbs Railway gave consideration to the construction of a joint expressway-railway facility along the Eastern Freeway corridor, estimating that this would effect a reduction in capital costs (presumably relative to the construction of a railway and an expressway as separate entities). It was recommended that an independent railway be adopted rather than a joint facility because the cost of joint construction would be so high that work could be delayed unacceptably.

Whilst there is little doubt that the Department of Main Roads had prepared detailed plans for the Eastern Freeway, these were never released to the public. There was a growing opposition to inner urban freeway construction and this led, via a Cabinet sub-committee recommendation, to the abandonment of work on the Eastern Freeway in February 1977. Furthermore, the Minister for Transport and Highways announced, in regards to the Eastern Freeway, that:

“the corridor will reservation from Taylor Square to Old South Head Rd at Bellevue Hill will be eliminated with exception of requirements for the Bondi Junction bypass road and for a suitable grade-separated interchange at Taylor Square and road improvement works in the Taylor Square-Dowling Street area.”2

As the Eastern Distributor was much later constructed as a tunnel, the Bondi Junction bypass became the only section of the Eastern Freeway to ever see the light of day. Planned commercial and governmental redevelopment of Bondi Junction town centre led to the establishment of the Bondi Junction Planning Committee to plan for Bondi Junction’s changing transport needs. The Committee’s plans included a bus/rail interchange (including construction of the Eastern Suburbs Railway), redevelopment of the commercial centre and a By-pass of the commercial centre for through traffic via a major road to north. By 1977 Oxford Street , which was the major route through Bondi Junction, was carrying upwards of 24,000 vpd while Edgecliff Rd , a local road used as an alternative by through traffic to bypass the centre of Bondi Junction, was carrying 20,000 vpd. Alternatives to the bypass, such as widening Oxford St and/or Edgecliff Rd , were unacceptable both economically and because of disruption to the commercial and social life of the community.

Whilst property acquisition costing $8.5 million (1977 prices) had been ongoing for a number of years, the decision to proceed with construction of the bypass was not made until November 1976. This left a little over two years to have the bypass completed in time for opening of the Eastern Suburbs Railway and the associated bus/rail interchange in early 1979. A direction from the Minister for Transport and Highways to proceed with the construction of the bypass had previously been made in March 1976, however construction had halted before it could really begin while the Eastern Suburbs Railway Board of Review reported on the need for the bypass. The following is an extract from the Report of the Eastern Suburbs Railway Board of Review, released on 11 November 1976 :

“The Department of Main Roads is currently of the opinion that the bypass road should be completed whether the Eastern Suburbs Railway proceeds or not, with the provisio that a surface (as distinct from elevated) road might be found to be adequate if the railway were not to proceed.

“Local councils and others have also put forward the view that the bypass road should be completed. Reasons for the view include the extent of commitments entered into with local authorities, the degree to which planning has rested on the proposals and the necessity to restore some dignity to the environment and large areas which have been made derelict to make way for it.

“The Board shares the unanimous view of these authorities and others that the road should be constructed as early as practicable.

“The Board notes that some $5.5 million of the estimated cost could be saved if the road were to be constructed at surface level instead of being elevated. This would, of course, require traffic light controlled intersections which would appear to be undesirable in a relatively short length of road which in any case would still be costing some $12 million.”2

Thus, pre-construction activities such as demolition of acquired property and the relocation of utilities were recommenced as soon as possible following the Government’s adoption of the Board’s recommendations.

The bypass deviates from Oxford Street at Ocean Street (from where there was a six lane roadway to the CBD) and then proceeds easterly along the north side of Bondi Junction, hugging the northern side of Grafton Street . It is elevated for 453m of its 1300m length, and the viaduct structure was built as a continuous concrete plank bridge. At-grade intersections at either end provide the only vehicular access to the bypass. Originally designed with two 3.7m-wide lanes and a 3.0m left shoulder in each direction, upon opening the bypass was striped for three traffic lanes in each direction and has remained this way.

Construction was completed swiftly and the Bondi Junction Bypass was opened to traffic on 9 January 1979 . The Eastern Suburbs Railway Line, which was integrated heavily with the Bondi Junction bypass project, was opened to traffic on 23 June 1979 and consequently a number of traffic changes were made in the vicinity of Oxford Street . These included the closure of Oxford St between Newland St and Bronte Rd , and its transformation into a pedestrian mall, the transformation of Oxford St between Bronte Rd and Adelaide St into a bus-only roadway and the closure of Bronte Rd between Spring St and Oxford St to all traffic except buses.

As a tribute to local politician, and former Deputy Premier of New South Wales, Sid Einfeld, the Bondi Junction Bypass was renamed “Syd Einfeld Drive” on 5 February 1988.

Photos of the Bondi Junction bypass
Aerial view of early construction work on the Bondi Junction bypass in 1977. (DMR)
The viaduct is nearing completion in late 1978. (DMR)
Aerial view of the Bondi Junction bypass just after opening in January 1979. (DMR)
Looking east from the pedestrian bridge at Nelson St in 1979. (DMR)
Oxford Street looking east from Moore Park Rd at Woollahra. The Eastern Freeway would have swallowed this very aesthetically pleasing section of Oxford Street if it were built. June 2005.
Oxford St eastbound approaching the beginning of the Bondi Junction bypass at Ocean St. June 2005.
Syd Einfeld Drive westbound approaching Oxford St and Ocean St. June 2005.
Looking east alongside Grafton St. June 2005.
Looking east from Nelson St. June 2005.
Syd Einfeld Dr eastbound at its eastern end. June 2005.

1. Department of Main Roads; The Roadmakers: A History of Main Roads in New South Wales
2. Department of Main Roads; Main Roads Vol. 42 No. 4; June 1977; p.98
3. Eastern Suburbs Railway Board of Review; Report of the Eastern Suburbs Railway Board of Review; 1976; p.15

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