Queensland’s Airport Link project, a joint venture by Parsons Brinckerhoff and Arup, has won the R.W. Hawken Award, Queensland’s top engineering prize presented by Engineers Australia.

This $5.6 billion project – Australia’s largest road infrastructure project – encompassed the Airport Link, Northern Busway (Windsor to Kedron) and Airport Roundabout Upgrade projects.  The Airport Link connects Brisbane’s CBD to Brisbane Airport using 15 kilometres of tunnel, 25 bridges, as well as a number of off-ramps and specially designed bus-tunnels.

The judges were particularly impressed by the exceptionally thorough design of complex works in difficult geological environments involving numerous stakeholders. The project can boast many Australian and even world firsts, with three of the world’s largest road caverns excavation and two of the largest tunnelling machines ever used in Australia costing $45m.

The judges were also impressed by the complex interfacing of road geometry within and outside the tunnels.

Design features include large-span mined tunnels providing three-lane uni-directional vehicular travel, with underground intersections and high-capacity interchanges, providing access to the tunnel infrastructure and existing road network, as well as high-quality urban design and finish.

“Of the 40 state finalists entered in this year’s Queensland Engineering Excellence Awards, the Airport Link project took out the most prestigious award for its significant contribution to Queensland’s road transport system and its innovative solutions for traffic congestion,” said Simon Orton Engineers Australia Queensland Division President.

TBM Traversing the Kedron Caverns

TBM Traversing the Kedron Caverns

“The Airport Link project provides faster, mass movements of traffic which is necessary for Queensland’s rapidly growing population.  This project highlights the important contribution made by engineering professionals to the development of long-term sustainable transport systems, which opens up future economic development,” added Mr Orton.

The Airport Roundabout Upgrade, in particular, is a vital piece of infrastructure for both improving access to the airport and surrounding economically important areas. The design solution for this project replaces the existing airport roundabout with grade-separation of the East–West and Gateway arterial roads, supported by a fast-diamond intersection.

“The scale, complexity and short delivery programme puts Airport Link up there with some of the most challenging projects on a global scale in recent times. This win is a great testament to the entire design team, and to our construction partners Thiess John Holland. Together we have delivered a thoughtful and intelligent design and one of the most complex pieces of infrastructure in the country’s history,” said Luke van Heuzen, PBAJV Project Director

Airport Link was also one of six finalists in the 2013 World Infrastructure Awards, and earlier this year received the 2013 Australia Award for Urban Design for the Northern Busway project – which was hailed as a catalyst for urban transformation in public transport.

Airport Link will now progress to the Australian Engineering Excellence Awards to be held on 20 November in Canberra.