General News

13 October, 2022

Locals drive road needs to Minister

Minister for Transport and Main Roads Mark Bailey failed to give any hope that the State Government will investigate an alternative road corridor to the coast anytime soon when he addressed a Mareeba Chamber of Commerce luncheon last week.

Minister for Transport and Main Roads Mark Bailey speaking at the recent Mareeba Chamber of Commerce Luncheon.
Minister for Transport and Main Roads Mark Bailey speaking at the recent Mareeba Chamber of Commerce Luncheon.

Mr Bailey stuck to the government’s position that the Kuranda Range Road would not reach capacity for another 30 years and spruiked the $35 million Intelligent Transport System currently being installed as a major step forward in improving safety by slowing drivers down.

“It’s a lot of fibre, a lot of technology that we’re wiring up on the Kuranda Range Road – it’s new, so I have faith that it’s going to be effective – we will see how it operates in the real world and that’ll be next year,” he said.

“I think it will be a big improvement in the reliability to get through on that road – I think that’s the first thing you’ve got to deal with on that road.”

But local truck operator Colin Watson made it clear to the Minister the works would do nothing to make the range road a viable transport corridor for heavy vehicles.

“So all these signs (digital speed) – it’s a lot of money you’re spending but it’s not going to achieve anything – a new road must be built,” he said.

“As it stands at the moment, we're not legal because it’s physically impossible for trucks of 90m to go down those roads without dropping an axle group over the centre white line and we’ve got the local police that charge us for that.

“A new road has to be built and a bridge, this has been going on for many years, something has to be done because there are three ranges that trucks can’t legally use – the Palmerston is the only one and that’s a long way around for transport.”

Mr Bailey took the comments on board and advised that the government were also not yet sure on how to go forward with the Barron River Bridge.

“The question is: Is it time for a new bridge or are there works we can do get another 30, 40 or 50 years out of that bridge?” he said.

“The answer is we don’t know at this point, we are actually doing that work now – what is the best value for taxpayers – whether it’s a new bridge or bolstering the old bridge.”

Reddicliffe Highway proponent Ken Harley spoke at length about the critical need for an alternative road corridor to Cairns, and why the region deserved a commitment from the State Government to provide a route that we needed “yesterday” which could support an ever-growing agricultural industry.

He urged the government to act now to investigate alternate corridors instead of waiting for the development of the new Regional Plan.

“Why can’t we do the studies now so that when the regional plan comes out, they can do the little bit of work to dovetail it and then move forward straight away?”

But Mr Bailey said the numbers just didn’t “stack up” when it came to the need for an alternate route to Cairns.

“We’ve done the Cairns to Tablelands Study and crunched numbers and what that’s come back with was basically an answer that not everyone wanted, the outcome at this point in time, is that the numbers don’t justify it – that might change in 10 years time.”

Chamber of Commerce president Joe Moro said he was grateful the Minister had agreed to come to Mareeba and told Mr Bailey at the lunch that road connectivity remained a critical issue for the region, naming the full sealing of Ootann Road, an alternate road to the coast, and an unhitching pad between Kuranda and Mareeba as important projects that needed to be tackled for the area to reach its full potential.

He also raised the importance of the Mareeba Bypass to remove heavy vehicles from the main street of the town.


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