Time for action on heartbreak highway

Why is the ALP wasting billions of the people's money on nonsense schemes when real problems like this need fixing?

BARELY a week goes by without it claiming a life. Every second day, on average, it's impassable. It is littered with blackspots and plagued by potholes. The Bruce Highway, the state's main artery and Queensland's contribution to National Highway 1, is a national disgrace.

As the Federal Government prepares its Budget, the need to fix our highway of shame is more apparent than ever. In the first three months of this year, the road has been cut 84 times because it can not cope with seasonal flooding.

Leading the charge for action are grieving families of the almost 200 people who have lost their lives in the past five years, frustrated truck drivers and local mayors fed up with years of pleas for funds falling on deaf ears.

The State Government shifts the blame to its federal counterparts, with Roads Minister Craig Wallace calling for more funding from Canberra. "Both sides of federal politics have ignored the Bruce Highway for nearly 40 years and it will take time to reverse these years of impact," he said. A recent report released by Mr Wallace claimed $5.3 billion was needed to flood-proof the highway.

Miners, businesses and farmers say Queensland can no longer afford to keep vital freight and produce trucks waiting at flooded crossings. "There are goods and services we need, like fertilisers and chemicals, that get held up because we've got trucks sitting on the road for a week to 10 days," Bowen and Gumlu District Growers Association president Carl Walker said.

Whitsunday Mayor Mike Brunker said flood-prone sections were a severe threat to development and tourism. "Up near Sandy Gully which is going to be a state development area and could be the biggest coal port in Australia the whole state's resources are going to be held up by flooded creeks," he said. "If Abbott Point takes off in the next two years, you could have 3000 workers on one side of the creek not being able to get to work."

Upgrading of the Bruce Highway has long been stymied by political buckpassing, with state and federal governments arguing the other should be doing more.

The Queensland Government claims it will spend almost $1 billion between 2006 and 2014 but argues that given the Bruce Highway is a crucial part of the national network, the bulk of future funding should come from the Federal Government.

The Federal Government points out there is nothing stopping the states contributing more to the upkeep of their most important roads.

Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said the Labor Government had committed $3.2 billion until 2014. He blamed the current state of the Bruce Highway on the Howard Government, saying average annual spending had increased by $281 million since Labor took office. "Despite having 12 years to do something about this road and the record tax revenues to pay for it, they chose to do very little," Mr Albanese said.

Shadow Transport Minister Warren Truss said the blame game had to stop. "It's high time federal and state Labor worked together to ensure Queenslanders have a major highway they can rely on," he said.

State Opposition Leader Campbell Newman said the LNP would unveil details before the next state election outlining how it would deliver better flood protection. "The LNP is committed to addressing the state's infrastructure needs," he said.

The RACQ said the condition of the Bruce Highway was "totally unacceptable". "We need a quantum leap in investment to bring it up to standard," RACQ executive manager traffic and safety John Wikman said. He said the highway was 10 years behind current traffic volumes and more four-lane stretches were vital.

IT'S been more than five years since the Bruce Highway claimed Jamie McTackett's wife and daughter and he's still waiting for it to be fixed. In August 2005, Karryn McTackett, 33, and 12-year-old Jessica were killed in a head-on smash with a semi-trailer while returning to Bowen from a junior football match in Townsville.

While he says he has never blamed the truck driver involved, Mr McTackett called for extra lanes to be added to the troubled Bruce Highway. "If it was a four-lane highway, the chances of (his wife's accident) happening would've been pretty scarce," he said.

He said Queenslanders had been neglected by policy-makers for far too long. "Get your finger out and fix the road," he said. "Our national highway's a disgrace."


1 comment:

  1. Daym, if some road construction company could get the permits, they could make some good dollars by making a toll bridge along those rivers.

    Of course eco-nazis would have a chit-fit about putting concrete pilings into river beds.


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