The Carnarvon Highway through Roma, part of Labor's planned 'second Bruce Highway'. PIC: Lachlan Berlin
The Carnarvon Highway through Roma, part of Labor's planned 'second Bruce Highway'. PIC: Lachlan Berlin

Where to next for southwest Queensland’s new highway

ONE of Labor’s big campaign promises on the lead-up to the 2020 Queensland Election was to create a new inland highway running from Charters Towers to the border at Mungindi.

Dubbed the ‘second Bruce Highway’, this ambitious $1 billion project will link the major North Queensland city of Townsville to the Newell Highway at Moree.

The State Government believes that a whopping 49 per cent of trucks could be taken off of the existing Bruce when the inland highway is completed.

In a statement given to the Western Star, transport and main roads minister Mark Bailey outlined the first moves that will be taken to construct the new road.

“The first priority for us right now is to work with the Federal Government to lock in funding and certainty for regional communities around the improved Inland Freight Route,” Mr Bailey said.

“We will seek $800 million from the Federal Government towards a $1 billion total new commitment, but we have said our $200 million is full committed and available to spend regardless of what the Federal Government decides.

“Based on the funding already committed and the clear economic benefits for regional communities and industries, we believe there is a strong case there to see more Federal funding for the Inland Freight Route.”

This funding will be initially used to address flooding issues near Emerald, constraints through Carnarvon and improving the Belyando stretch.

Mr Bailey said the Carnarvon and Gregory Highway route was already designated as a ‘Road of Strategic Importance’ with $125 million worth of upgrades already in the pipeline.

But as part of this project, major changes to the road network through townships will be needed, which could include treatments and bypasses, although designs will be undertaken later.

Southwest Queensland Regional Organisation of Councils chair and Balonne Shire Mayor Samantha O’Toole welcomed the idea to build the new highway.

But she believes there are some challenges that will need to be overcome to get the most out of the project for the Balonne Shire.

“Currently, that Carnarvon Highway is going through the middle of St George,” Cr O’Toole said.

The highway currently comes through Grey Street before making a 90 degree turn onto the heavily vegetated Victoria Street.

This will mean that a town bypass or a major treatment through town will likely be needed to facilitate triples going through town.

And while Salmon Road is already designated as a heavy vehicle detour route, the design of the new highway will need to be discussed between stakeholders.

“As the mayor, I’m here to represent local views,” Cr O’Toole said.

But if a major treatment was done to Victoria Street, this could mean the removal of the median strip, which could prove very controversial to the community.

Maranoa Regional Council mayor Tyson Golder believes the first step towards building the highway through his region is to consult with the community and get their feedback on possible route options.

“If you listen to the community you can’t go too far wrong,” he said.

“Making sure no one’s worse off by putting the highway in.”

While the design of the highway through Roma is yet to be created, Cr Golder believes there needs to be consideration for noise and speed limits through towns.

“The main thing is to do with the noise throughout towns and so forth, and making sure that there’s quiet enjoyment still protected,” he said.

When asked about the possibility of a highway bypass of Roma, Cr Golder erred on the side of caution, saying they can ‘kill’ communities.

But overall, he is supportive of the idea of a ‘second Bruce Highway’ through the Maranoa.

“I just hope it will be increased support of our local businesses, roadhouses and cafes, and then onto the wider business community as far as industry,” he said.

“Increasing the freight route means that freight’s more affordable.

“I’d really hope that signifying it as a highway will help increase the standard of road will help make it safer for all motorists to drive on.”

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