The death late last week of a 53-year-old woman in a road accident near Gin Gin in southern Queensland’s Wide Bay region has highlighted once again the need for urgent work on the Bruce Highway. The woman died when her car was in collision with a truck on what police described as a ‘notorious blackspot’.
Of course, the incredible wet weather experienced in the Sunshine State over the past few months has meant many roads have taken a real battering and the ‘Bruce’, which is Queensland’s main transport artery, has been cut by flooding a staggering 446 times in the past two years. RACQ road closure data shows that Queensland’s most flood-prone section of the Bruce Highway is between Mackay and Cairns, with the 750km stretch of bitumen closed 334 times since 2009.
Happily, the recent Federal Budget did set aside significant funds for major upgrades to the Bruce Highway, which will see flood-proofing as one of the main priorities. However, some influential voices are calling for an upgrade of the alternative inland routes, as well.
“During the Brisbane floods, because all the food distribution comes out of Brisbane, all of Queensland and half of the Northern Territory were at a critical level because they could not get food,” said Ed Warren from Queensland’s Central West Council of Mayors. “The roads were closed at Rockhampton and Emerald and the only conceivable route accessible to Mackay, Townsville and Cairns and that area was by the inland routes.”
Mr Warren said the Government should consider those routes as an alternative and keep up the capital improvements and maintenance on it which he said was some 15 or 20 years behind.
Certainly, many grey nomads have already discovered that missing out the Bruce – or at least parts of it – in order to travel inland is a pleasant and interesting alternative. A large number now choose to travel from the Queensland capital to Rockhamption via the Burnett Highway, enjoying some fantastic country along the way. Depending on your itinerary and your schedule, a glance at the map shows there are also a number of fascinating and guaranteed-to-be-an-experience alternative routes further north.
That’s not to say that the improvements to the Bruce are not absolutely essential. Five highway projects, which had been under threat, are now to be reinstated as part of the Federal Budget. These will include realigning the highway north of Gin Gin between Cabbage Tree Creek and Carmen Road, as well as at Back Creek Range to provide a wider road surface on flatter grades.
The constant flooding of the hghway has, of course, been a nightmare for all concerned. As well as the huge cost to productivity of closing a major highway so regularly, it has also affected grey nomads and other travellers … and that in turn has had a further economic effect.
“The Bruce Highway is the major east coast transport and communication corridor for freight, tourists and general traffic,” said RACQ traffic and safety executive manager, John Wikman. “It is essential to the economic wellbeing of the state and it underpins the huge drive-tourism market, on which Queensland’s tourism industry depends.”
Spot on, John.