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Tunnel Opens to Ease Traffic on Overtaxed Bridge

August 31, 1992

Undated (AP) _ SYDNEY, Australia (AP) - Sydney residents love the magnificent harbor that makes Australia’s largest city one of the most beautiful in the world. But many loathe crossing it.

Ever-increasing traffic has choked the 60-year-old Sydney Harbor Bridge, and a leisurely ferry trip is too slow for the hurried commuter.

City authorities hope the congestion will ease with today’s opening of a four-lane tunnel that stretches from north to south.

More than 100 cars were lined up on each side of the tunnel to be the first through at 3 a.m.

A motorcycle and several cars sneaked through before the link officially opened, but one of the passengers in the first paying car was 87-year-old Isabelle Bremner, who was in the second car to cross the Harbor Bridge when it opened in 1932.

Built on schedule over four years and on budget for nearly $400 million, the tunnel links two Australian icons: It stretches from behind the Sydney Opera House, reminiscent of a boat with billowing white sails, to the arching gray steel bridge’s northern approaches in Kirribilli.

Pedestrians got their lone look at the tunnel Sunday, when 136,000 people paid $2 each to walk under the harbor, with the proceeds going to charity.

The tunnel, built by a consortium of Transfield Propriety Ltd. and Japan’s Kumagai Gumi, is 1.4 miles long. Six-tenths of a mile was bored through rock at either end. The balance is made up of eight reinforced tubes connected in a trench on the harbor floor and covered in material dredged off the bottom.

Critics say the link will encourage people to keep driving to work, aggravating traffic and pollution. The money, they said, would have been better spent on improving public transportation.

That dire forecast is disputed by the Sydney Harbor Tunnel Co., which will operate the tunnel and charge tolls for the next 30 years before handing it over to the New South Wales state government.

Official estimates say 200,000 cars currently cross the harbor, a figure expected to rise to 230,000 by the turn of the century.