The St Helena Tunnel on the Pacific Highway near Byron Bay.
The St Helena Tunnel on the Pacific Highway near Byron Bay.

Our tunnel is so good it's being copied for Coffs Harbour

THREE key tunnels at the centre of the Coffs Harbour bypass could be copycats of the St Helena tunnel in Byron shire.

At 450m the Gatelys Road tunnel will be slightly longer than St Helena at 434m.

There will be an additional two tunnels incorporated in the Coffs Harbour bypass at Roberts Hill (190m) and Shephards Lane (360m).

The three tunnels should be just as photographed and Instagramable as the St Helena tunnel which has become a social media favourite since opening to traffic in December 2015.

Tunnels have been incorporated into the design of the Coffs Harbour bypass after community backlash against cheaper cuttings options.


Artists’ impression of Coffs Harbour tunnel.
Artists’ impression of Coffs Harbour tunnel.


The key benefits of the three tunnels include lowering the grade line of the main carriageway, reducing impacts to agricultural properties and farmland, reducing the amount of land required to be purchased for the project, reducing impacts to areas of Aboriginal significance, and enabling the project to blend in better to the surrounding landscape.

It will also lower noise levels for neighbouring residents.

The St Helena Tunnel was built as part of the Tintenbar to Ewingsdale Pacific Highway upgrade.

The tunnel was built to avoid the steep grades of St Helena Hill. At its deepest point the tunnel is 45 metres below the 131-metre-high ridge line

Workers burrowed through magma from Mt Warning believed to about 23 million years old.

It took specialised drilling and controlled blast methods to get through the strong basalt rock.

Bypassing Coffs Harbour is one of the few remaining stumbling blocks for the complete duplication of the Pacific Highway north of Newcastle

The bypass is going to take more than 12,000 vehicles a day out of the centre of Coffs Harbour and reduce travel times by as much as 12 minutes by bypassing 12 sets of traffic lights.