Is this the solution to Bruce Hwy Gridlock?
Is this the solution to Bruce Hwy Gridlock? Iain Curry

Why Bruce Hwy crash congestion fix was ignored

A QUICK-FIX solution to the Bruce Highway gridlock was handed in three years ago by the forensic crash investigator tasked with sifting through the grizzly remains of a fatal crash.

Garry Church, who investigated some of the most horrific Sunshine Coast road crashes and was 2013 Citizen of the Year, came up with the solution as he was "fed up" with being told to reopen the Bruce Hwy.

"I was getting so bloody angry that every time we had a fatality, I would be told to hurry up and open the road up," Mr Church said.

But his solution, which eerily mirrors a suggestion by Sunshine Coast Daily Deputy Editor Damian Bathersby, was "laughed at".

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It was to have a road connection linking the northbound lane of the Bruce Highway to the southbound lane every five kilometres to give people an option of another road to use.

Former forensic crash investigator Garry Church.
Former forensic crash investigator Garry Church. Contributed

"The duty officer can have the keys (so it is only used in emergencies) and then you can close one lane off (for traffic to be used in the other direction."

Mr Church said even before his retirement two years ago, a crash on the Bruce Hwy between the Sunshine Coast and Caboolture would create a "complete bloody shambles".

"You would get traffic banked up for miles and miles," he said.

But his job was not to worry about the traffic and people's desires to get to their destination.

His job was to provide a grieving family answers as to what caused the death of their loved on that stretch of road.

"We had this pressure to hurry up and open the road, but I'd say 'hey, this is a crime scene'.

"If it was a murder then the highway would be closed for hours and you'd have police investigating from everywhere.

"But a crash is still a death. It deserves answers, particularly if someone else was at fault."

RELATED: Live traffic updates 


Main Roads and Engineers Australia Infrastructure spokesman, Chris Warnock, also didn't believe the suggestion would work.

"It's not cheap to do and it wouldn't be a quick fix," Mr Warnock said.

"It would also introduce a whole lot of new safety hazards that didn't exist before."

But Mr Church said it was feasible when you considered "one road death costs about $3.5 million".

"You can't tell me it is going to cost that sort of money to put in a few median strips. They do it for speed cameras."

RELATED: Heroes draw praise for watching over Bruce blackspot

A Main Roads spokesman said there were several emergency vehicle access points located along the Bruce Hwy.

But allowing traffic to effectively U-turn onto opposing highway lanes in the event of a major incident "would require considerable logistics to establish a safe traffic arrangement".

"Due to risks involved with vehicles U-turning onto the opposing highway lanes where vehicles are travelling at high speed, speed reductions would need to be put in place," the spokesman said.

"This would require the deployment of maintenance crews to establish the site and install signage, as well as police traffic controllers to manage traffic.

"These arrangements take considerable time, and would only generally be implemented for a long-term closure of the highway, such as flooding.

"Often, one lane of traffic could be reopened before significant alternate traffic arrangements are put in place."

The goods for motorists was planning was "under way" to prioritise future upgrades to the Bruce Hwy between the Pine River Bridge and Caloundra Road Interchange.

But the preliminary planning was due to be completed by "mid-2018". Then a staging strategy would be developed to prioritise the delivery and funding by state and federal governments

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