Northern road upgrades signed and sealed in federal budget

Hann Highway, Gulf Savannah set to benefit from federal budget

Federal Election National News
Current roadwork on the Hann Highway north of Hughenden. Picture supplied.

Current roadwork on the Hann Highway north of Hughenden. Picture supplied.

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The Hann Highway is one of a number of roads in North Queensland set to benefit from a $730 million investment by the federal government in next week's budget.

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The Hann Highway is one of a number of roads in North Queensland set to benefit from a $730 million investment by the federal government in next week's budget.

Announced this week, the investment is expected to seal or upgrade around 700 kilometres of road, concentrating on strategic corridors identified by CSIRO and TranSIT logistic modelling.

Road networks slated to receive money include Townsville to Tennant Creek ($200 million), Yeppoon to Mount Isa ($190 million), ​Cooktown to Weipa ($190 million), Townsville to Roma ($100 million), and ​Cairns to the Northern Territory border via the Savannah Way ($50 million).

They are part of the federal Roads of Strategic Importance initiative set to deliver $3.5 billion over the next decade. Some $1.5 billion of that has been quarantined for northern Australia.​​

In making the announcement, Northern Australia Minister Matt Canavan said the upgrades would help North Queensland recover from some of the worst floods in its history.

He touted a number of benefits from the investment, including the provision of an inland alternative to the Bruce Highway, safer roads for local residents, hours in driving time and thousands of dollars in costs for truck drivers cut, and millions of dollars in tourist spending flowing to remote and regional communities.

Mayors in the north west welcomed the announcement, saying it ticked off several projects in the roads platform of their strategic six-point plan for the future.

"We will be seeking more detail on the commitment to the Hann more generally," their statement said, while acknowledging the flood recovery road funding support received to date.

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Further announcements about specific roadworks to be funded under the ROSI program have been promised in coming weeks.

Apart from the Hann, the road between Tambo and Springsure has been identified as a key feeder route that will have sections sealed.

The CSIRO estimated fully sealing it would save $4.6 million a year by cutting eight hours off a round trip that costs livestock carriers $1400 per trip.

The Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd said at the moment, livestock carriers were driving hundreds of extra kilometres rather than use the road, a "complete handbrake on efficiency and productivity for the region's graziers".

Since 2010 the Springsure to Tambo Road has been closed 21 times.

A familiar sign on the Springsure-Tambo Road.

A familiar sign on the Springsure-Tambo Road.

The expected opening up of areas to tourism, especially the 3500km Savannah Way connecting Cairns and Broome, was also highlighted as a beneficiary of the funding.

According to Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch, almost 60 per cent of the 313km Queensland section was already sealed and once the planned 10-year project was completed, it would improve flood resilience in the region.

"The works will include pavement upgrade, bitumen sealing, minor realignments of substandard curves, concrete causeways and upgrades to four major river crossings, in the Carpentaria, Burke and Doomadgee shires," he said.

He expected the Queensland government would contribute 20pc towards the project when its budget was handed down in June.

Assistant Minister for Roads and Transport Scott Buchholz said input from those who live across the north and who use these roads had been crucial in identifying the corridors.

North Queensland-based Senator Ian Macdonald said the road projects would increase liveability and revitalise commerce and tourism across the north.

"These projects will create local jobs through the construction phase, and support regional business into the future by ensuring the sustainability of supply chains," he said.

"Creating a viable network of inland roads has long been a goal of the Liberal National government, and the flooding on the Bruce this past wet season has demonstrated the need for alternative inland routes."

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