When driving through Waterfall took its toll
These days you can travel up the M1 Princes Motorway and not have to pay a cent.
But it wasn’t always the case.
For 20 years – from 1975 to 1995 – motorists had to reach into their pockets for some loose change so they could pay a toll at Waterfall.
This Saturday, it’s 21 years since the tollbooths at Waterfall – which took cash from motorists travelling in both directions – were closed down.
Since then South Coast motorists have had a few extra bucks in their pocket.
The toll road – from Waterfall to Bulli Pass – was announced in October 1969.
There were even claims the road would be designed to that it could be widened to three lanes in both directions – though today it’s hard to see where that space is.
At the time, the road was budgeted at $15 million and would be open in 1972.
Time would tell both those figures were not really close to reality.
Work began in 1970 and the construction crew found parts of the road tough going.
Parts of the tollway required cutting through sandstone 24 metres high, and the rock was then used to fill depressions and gorges elsewhere on the route – some of then 30 metres deep.
The planned opening date of 1972 came and went but there was no road – nor had there been a decision on the cost of the toll or the speed limit.
In July 1974 the cost of the road had risen to $18 million and it still wasn’t open.
The delay was blamed on “material shortages, bad weather and industrial unrest” but a Main Roads Department spokesman said he hoped it would be open by Christmas.
It wasn’t – it wouldn’t see its first cars until July 25, 1975. Curiously, the official opening didn’t make the front page of the Mercury the next day.
Up at the Waterfall tollgates, the ribbon was cut by NSW Premier Tom Lewis and, within the first hour more than 700 cars had paid the 40-cent toll.
It didn’t take long for some to complain that 40 cents was too high, and they pledged to use the old Princes Highway instead.
It was the same story when the toll was raised to 60 cents and, in 1992, to a dollar.
In May 1995, these people got the welcome news that the Carr government would remove the toll, partially to stop heavy trucks using the old highway.
And so, on June 30, 1995, Roads Minister Michael Knight paid the last ever toll – for Glen Kirkpatrick and his white sports car.
Immediately afterwards, a “no toll” sign went up and tollbooth workers clocked off for the last time.
The tollgates were dismantled in the coming months and, today it is hard to tell they were ever there.