‘Killer’ Bruce Hwy is an absolute disgrace

WHEN the next clutch of International Olympic Committee members blesses the Sunshine State with a visit, Premier Palaszczuk should take them for a nice drive in the country.

I'd suggest the route I took last week from Bundaberg to Brisbane through rolling green hills and swaying fields of sugar cane that are all but ripe for the harvest.

It's also a nightmare stretch of two-lane, bitumen filled with semi-trailers thundering bumper-to-bumper and grey nomads piloting swaying caravans, their rear-vision mirrors filled with the bull bars of heavy trucks.

The opposing columns of vehicles on the stretch I drove pass within metres of each other, approaching at a combined speed of 200km/h. There are no barriers. A moment's inattention or a sudden distraction and you're dead.

This is the Bruce Highway, National Highway One, the main arterial route in the state and the lifeline connecting regional Queensland with Brisbane carrying more than 100,000 vehicles a day and it's a killer, accounting for 17 per cent of all national highway deaths in the country.

What, you might wonder would the IOC gentlefolk, accustomed to the autobahns, autostrade and autoroutes of Europe, think of The Bruce? They might ask themselves why a state that has a sealed goat track as its principal highway is putting up its hand for the Olympics.

The state government is encouraging Queenslanders to travel within their own state, which is laudable. What is does not say is that to undertake a road trip is to expose yourself to the dangers inherent in our sub-standard highways.

I witnessed those dangers first-hand as a ute heading towards us pulled out from behind a truck and attempted a near-suicidal overtaking manoeuvre.

A multi-vehicle, head-on collision was avoided only by heavy braking by the drivers in our lane.

On The Bruce, the margin between life and death is measured in seconds. When you reach the Sunshine Coast, the highway suddenly widens to four lanes, but if you live outside of the strip encompassing the Gold Coast, Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast then it's bad luck, mate.

If you continue driving south and cross the border into New South Wales, then your chances of surviving the drive increase, with the highway between Tweed Heads and Sydney now a dual carriageway in its entirety.

Up here in Bananabender Land, it's a different story.

The scene of a horror crash on the Bruce Highway near Tiaro. There are plans to bypass Tiaro but the bypass will still be two lanes not four lanes.
The scene of a horror crash on the Bruce Highway near Tiaro. There are plans to bypass Tiaro but the bypass will still be two lanes not four lanes.

There are four-lane sections on the Bruce, but they are woefully insufficient with the government's attitude to planning exemplified by a proposal to bypass the small township of Tiaro, south of Bundaberg.

Incredibly, the bypass will be two lanes, not four. Member for Wide Bay Llew O'Brien has said that if the stretch of highway was in NSW or Victoria, it would already be four lanes.

"Shouldn't our section of the national highway be built to the same standard?" he asks.

In North Queensland, traffic on the Barron River Bridge is restricted to one lane after the Department of Transport and Main Roads imposed a load limit of 50.5 tonnes when "some issues" were identified that required "further investigation".

The problem is that the state is incapable of maintaining the roads that exist, such as they are, let alone build new ones, with the estimated cost of the deferred maintenance backlog for state roads standing at $5.85bn as of June 30 last year, an increase of 8 per cent on the previous financial year. A total of 1269 culverts - or 25 per cent of the road culverts for which the state is responsible - are currently rated as being in poor or very poor condition.

The state government's response to this lamentable situation is to say it is all the fault of former LNP premier Campbell Newman. Of course, it is because in Queensland politics, the buck never stops here.

The great sadness is that poor roads kill people. Government ministers and senior police regularly hold press conferences at which they announce they are "getting tough" on speeding, seat belt wearing and mobile phone use, but nary a word is uttered about getting tough on bad roads.

It is undeniably true that idiot drivers cause accidents, but so do poor roads. Tragically, as of the end of April, the Queensland road toll was 31 per cent higher than last year.

I'm not against holding the Olympic Games, although my personal view is that they are an expensive farce. There are so many other more important issues affecting the daily lives of Queenslanders that require urgent attention - not least the Bruce, where there are 1000 near-misses for every fatal crash.

Originally published as 'Killer' Bruce Hwy is an absolute disgrace



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