Chrissy Harris

Ten-year blueprint released to fix Bruce Highway crisis

A CONTINGENT of Queensland MPs, councillors, road industry leaders and engineers has identified a 10-year blueprint for fixing the problematic Bruce Highway.

The highway has claimed 20 lives in Central Queensland alone this year, with the RACQ predicting 300-400 more lives will be lost over the next 10 years if the Federal Government doesn't fulfill its national highway obligations.

More than 50 capacity and flood mitigation projects, an extension of the Sunshine Coast-based wide centrelines trial and about 175km of road resealing are just a few of the major developments identified for delivery over the next 10 years.

The highlighted projects, which the State Government has released in a detailed plan today, are the result of seven months of deliberations between Bruce Highway Crisis Action Group members and engineer investigations.

Read the report here

The Out of Crisis plan identifies 33 of the highway's 460 bridges and 202 culverts as needing upgrades.

Three hundred and ninety-seven guardrail end terminals also need to be replaced.

The report says the crisis on the highway is undeniable, with deaths on the Bruce accounting for 17% of fatalities on only 7.5% of the national highway.

Investment in safety, flooding and capacity improvements would all contribute to reducing the road toll (currently around 50 fatalities and 400 serious injuries per year) by about 35% on completion of the plan, it said.

The report also stated traffic volumes along the whole length of the highway were continuing to increase rapidly as a result of the economic activity associated with the resources boom throughout the state, including major industrial development at Gladstone port.  

Implementing wide seals and overtaking lanes has been earmarked for the Gympie to Rockhampton stretch, along with curve realignment north of Miriam Vale in five to seven years.  

Transport and Main Roads Minister Scott Emerson said he also wanted to see the roll-out of wide centrelines currently on trial on the notorious Corooy-to-Curra stretch on the Sunshine Coast.

"This innovation has led to a 58% reduction in head-on crashes and I believe we can see a significant reduction in this type of crash if we deliver this safety measure," he said.

But some of the projects' delivery is dependent on the Federal Government stepping up their funding contribution to the national road, an issue of some contention.

Deputy Premier and State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Minister Jeff Seeney said the State Government was committed to an extra $1 billion over 10 years, dependent on increased federal funding.

"This is a federal road that has been ignored by the Federal Government, but it's time Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her Cabinet stopped short-changing Queenslanders," he said.

"The Federal Government must step up and fund at least 86 per cent of the additional projects for their road, as it has in the past."

Mr Emerson said if the Federal Government adhered to its usual 80-20 funding split, Queenslanders would see an extra $500-$600 million a year towards significant improvements to the highway.

Federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese recently noted he was in negotiations over funding with the State Government, which he said was responsible for the management of the highway.

The Out of Crisis plan includes projects already committed over the next 10 years under base funding arrangements, plus additional projects that are needed to repair, improve and flood-proof the highway.

The Crisis Management Group will now be responsible for using the blueprint to lobby the Federal Government for extra funding.

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