You can go all the way back to the 1950s to find the first talk of the M4 Motorway and the acknowledgement that a quick and convenient connection between the city and its western suburbs was critical for Sydney.
Some 70 years later, we’re finally there – a run from Penrith to the Sydney CBD without stopping at a single traffic light, in what is a true game-changer for the road network.
The M4 of course started construction in the late 1960s, with new stages added progressively over the decades that followed.
As each year went by, the city got just a little bit closer for us in the west.
When I first got my licence back in 2001, a trip to the city was halted by the toll booths and the mad scramble to find the $2.20 to continue your journey.
Then it was the stop-start joy of Parramatta Road and the City West Link (itself only completed in 2000).
Everyone in Penrith knew the deal: you’d leave early for any sort of show or engagement, knowing that the state of your journey was largely pot luck.
And so after work drinks were often missed, dinner engagements skipped or big shows and sporting events a rarity rather than a regular, convenient occurrence.
Then came WestConnex, the most significant road project for us in western Sydney in a generation.
The first stage opened a few years ago now but the pièce de résistance is the new tunnel extension that opened a few weeks ago, allowing western Sydney motorists to skip the City West Link, which had become the worst part of a journey into the city.
I’ve had cause to travel into the city twice in the past week and both times it’s been a seamless journey.
Not a single traffic light from getting onto the M4 at The Northern Road to exiting at the ANZAC Bridge.
There’s been plenty of drama surrounding the Rozelle Interchange in the past couple of weeks and transport officials are desperately trying to alleviate the chaos caused, particularly for those in the inner west.
But the hidden story has been just how great the new connection is for those coming from Parramatta, Blacktown and Penrith.
This is a real line in the sand moment for the connection between the city and the west.
For too long those with blinkers on have seen Penrith as this foreign land that requires channelling Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson to venture to.
Now it’s about a 40-to-45 minute journey. You can’t even get through a full podcast episode. Gone are the days you could change the CD three times on one trip into the city.
Of course, the elephant in the room is the toll. It’s an expensive trip, and finding a route without a cost is harder and harder these days. 20-odd years ago you could do the sneaky James Ruse Drive exit and get into the city along Victoria Road, saving yourself the hit to the pocket. These days you’d spend more in petrol trying to avoid the toll.
And that will be the biggest issue for western Sydney motorists moving forward. Rather than time being the problem, cost will become roadblock number one.
But such a massive project cannot be undertaken without a cost back to the motorist and as much as it’s a pain to the hip pocket, the drive itself is bliss – albeit still impacted by the odd snarl, particularly in the morning and afternoon peak.
There is still work to be done on Sydney’s road network, but for the first time I can remember, it finally feels like we’ve caught up to what motorists from the west need.
We’re no longer behind the eight ball and we’ve shrugged off that reputation of being a million miles away in the middle of nowhere.
Now if they could somehow find a way to bring Laziko from Parramatta Road’s past back into the mix, it’d be perfect.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Breaking News Reporter. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations. In 2023, he was named Editor of the Year at the Mumbrella Publish Awards.