THE notorious Haughton River Bridge will finally be upgraded with work set to commence this year.
It is one of several projects that will undertaken on the Bruce Highway to improve flood immunity in North Queensland after the Federal Government approved $411.4 million in funding.
The State Government is contributing another $102.9 million.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Michael McCormack traveled to North Queensland for the first time in his new role to announce the funds.
He said the upgrade would revitalise north Queensland, and particularly Townsville, by supporting the long term growth and viability of local businesses and industries, and improving driver safety, connectivity and liveability.
Queensland Minister for Transport and Main Roads Mark Bailey said the $514.3 million upgrade of key sections of the highway would improve flood immunity and freight reliability for Queensland’s primary north-south corridor and boost accessibility for rural residents travelling to Townsville for essential services.
"This project will significantly reduce the frequency and duration of road closures along this section of the highway during the wet season and keep freight and people moving,” Mr Bailey said.
“The Bruce Highway is a vital artery for Queenslanders and upgrades which minimise closures due to flooding help keep this highway flowing.”
Dawson MP George Christensen said he had been lobbying since 2012 for the narrow and dangerous bridge to be upgraded.
He said at least 12 kilometres of the 13.5 kilometre section of highway was often flood-affected during the wet season, with the southern and northern ends most often impacted.
"Works will include the construction of an upgraded Haughton River Bridge, two overpasses and 13 other bridges, upgrading nine rural intersections, widening the road and installation of wide centre line treatment installed along the full length of the project," Mr Christensen said.
North Queensland based Senator Ian Macdonald said the works were long overdue.
“I’ve been driving over the bridge for over 40 years and cross it every day on the way from my Ayr home to the Townsville office so I well understand just how desperate the need is for it to be fixed,” Mr Macdonald said.
“Locals in Ayr and Home Hill have had to put up with crossing the dangerous bridge as part of their everyday life.”
Construction will begin in mid-2018 and be completed mid-2021, weather permitting.
Burdekin Shire Council Mayor Lyn McLaughlin said the upgrade was long overdue.
“Over the years the Bruce Highway between Townsville and the Burdekin has been affected by numerous road closures due to flooding, cutting off what is a vital transport link for industry, travel and tourism across the North and beyond,” Cr McLaughlin said.
“This project is not just about the Burdekin. This is a route that links southern Queensland with the North and the ability to access it at all times is vital.”
Cr McLaughlin praised the Giru community for its resilience during floods and said they would be taken into account during the design phase of the project to ensure they were not adversely affected.