Tony Abbott has taken his first step toward becoming the ‘infrastructure prime minister’, giving the green light to an $11.5 billion road construction project which will create a 33-kilometre link between Sydney’s western and southwestern suburbs and the airport and Port Botany precinct.

The Australian Prime Minister joined New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell in Sydney on Thursday to announce that construction on the WestConnex motorway project would begin in early 2015.

Abbott said the announcement is a demonstration of his commitment toward nation building.

“I hope to be known as an infrastructure prime minister,” Abbott said. “Sydney is 25 per cent of the nation’s economy (yet) too often Sydney suffers from transport gridlock … this will end, and it will end from today.”

Considered one of the most important infrastructure projects in New South Wales, the development includes capacity improvements on existing roads and new sections of motorway such as widening of the M4 east of Parramatta, an extension of the M4 east at North Strathfield to Taverners Hill in Petersham and duplication of the M5 East to King Georges Road (see map).

A Sydney Airport Access Link between the St Peters area and the M5 East portals will complete the missing link between the two motorways and, the NSW government says, provide better connections to the airport terminals, Port Botany and surrounding industrial areas.

west connex

Expected to take around 10 years to complete, the design and construction will be a staged process with priority sections having been identified in a business case  prepared by the Sydney Motorways Project Office, which was delivered to the state government last month.

The project will be partially funded by distance-based tolls capped at $7.35 billion by the completion of the network in today’s dollars.

The NSW government says the new project will complete a missing link between the M4 and M5 and provide better connections between Sydney’s west and the airport, port and surrounding industrial areas, as well as providing better traffic management and reduced congestion through separating heavy vehicle traffic from local traffic.

The government also believes the project will accommodate the growing transport needs of greater Sydney and strengthen access to commercial centres as well as stimulate urban renewal along the Parramatta Road corridor.

O’Farrell said the network will generate up to 10,000 new jobs, allow commuters to bypass 52 sets of traffic lights, and wipe 40 minutes and 25 minutes off travel times from Parramatta to Sydney Airport and the city respectively.

“This project is green for go,” he said.