Heavy traffic in Byron Bay in the lead up to Christmas. Picture: Liana Boss
Heavy traffic in Byron Bay in the lead up to Christmas. Picture: Liana Boss

Bypass won’t be open in time for Christmas, here’s why

A NUMBER of challenges have slowed the progress of the Byron Bypass, and a cease in work over the busy Christmas period means it will not open until after the summer holiday peak.

Map of the Byron Bay bypass.
Map of the Byron Bay bypass.

Stage 1 of the project began in July 2019, with hopes the bypass would be completed by the end of this year.

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Byron Shire Council announced yesterday the bypass was on track to open to traffic by late February and listed the reasons why it wouldn’t open before Christmas.

Opposition to the bypass, a rare snail , unexpected poor soil, the border closure, and unfinished noise abatement works were all listed as factors in the delay.

Studies conducted after the discovery of the critically endangered Mitchell's Rainforest Snail at Byron Bay bypass site delayed progress.
Studies conducted after the discovery of the critically endangered Mitchell's Rainforest Snail at Byron Bay bypass site delayed progress.

A construction shutdown was scheduled over Christmas to minimise disruption to traffic during the holiday period.

“This will be our last Christmas and New Year period without the Byron Bypass, but council looks forward to opening the project in full before the end of summer,” director of Infrastructure Services Phil Holloway said.

“The project has been in the planning for over 30 years, and there isn’t long to wait now before we can all experience it.”

Ben Franklin MLC said the project had long been in the works and would be well worth the wait once it officially opens.

“This new bypass will help alleviate traffic congestion and make trips smoother and faster for all road users – particularly locals.

“It is incredibly exciting that the opening will be happening this summer and I’m looking forward to joining the many thousands of others in trying out the new bypass come February,” Mr Franklin said.

The council said while work had been progressing well in recent months a series of events held up some aspects of the project.

These include:

  • Protests at the start of the project in July 2019.
Police and protesters clashed at the Byron Bay bypass site in 2019.
Police and protesters clashed at the Byron Bay bypass site in 2019.
  • A referral to the Federal Department of Environment and Energy (DoEE) after allegations that activities planned for Stage 2 of the project were in breach of the Federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act. In January, the DoEE confirmed it was satisfied with the projects existing offsets and mitigation measures.
  • A number of unknown site conditions during construction such as old sewer mains, contaminated soils, poorer than expected ground conditions throughout parts of the project, and heritage footings that were uncovered and referred to Heritage NSW.
  • The Queensland COVID-19 border closure had an impact on the availability of subcontractors for construction projects in northern NSW.https://www.northernstar.com.au/news/how-much-did-border-bubble-impact-northern-rivers/4142918/
  • One of the development consent conditions for the bypass project was that noise abatement works are completed in full, prior to the opening of the new road. While the majority of the work will be completed before Christmas, council was not permitted by law to open the bypass in full, until these works are complete.

“We look forward to the many benefits this major infrastructure project will bring, including giving an option to keep cars outside of Jonson Street, improved connectivity between the North and South of Byron Bay as well as several kilometres of new shared path facilities,” Mr Holloway said.

“It must be acknowledged that Byron’s traffic woes are complex in nature, and the goal of the bypass project has never been to provide a silver bullet to alleviate traffic congestion on Ewingsdale Road,” Mr Holloway said.

“In addition to our most recent roundabout upgrades at Sunrise Boulevard and Bayshore Drive, Transport for NSW is commencing a new signalization project at the Ewingsdale interchange. The work is due to start before the end of the year. The goal of this work is to stop traffic queuing on the M1 and improve safety at the interchange.”

The project has been fully funded by the NSW Government – $20 million including funding from Growing Local Economies – and $4 million from Byron Shire Council.


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