Buchholz bucks at Prairie Creek roadblock

Federal freight transport minister goes in to bat for Prairie Creek bridge upgrade


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A small concrete crossing that annually causes big road blockages has been brought to the attention of federal assistant minister for freight transport Scott Buchholz.

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A still photograph from the Flinders Shire Council camera positioned at the Prairie Creek crossing, taken on April 29.

A still photograph from the Flinders Shire Council camera positioned at the Prairie Creek crossing, taken on April 29.

A small concrete crossing that annually causes big road blockages has been brought to the attention of federal assistant minister for freight transport Scott Buchholz by some of those trying to give eastern Australian freight an alternate route from Melbourne to Cairns.

Mr Buchholz has been visiting Hughenden this week, representing deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack at the foundation stone laying for the Hughenden Irrigation Project, and inspected progress on the Hann Highway on Tuesday morning.

Flinders Shire councillors lost no time in impressing on the assistant minister the importance of the Torrens Creek Road to the overall viability of the Hann Highway sealing plan, and the roadblock the Prairie Creek crossing is to that.

They were backed up by council engineer Hari Boppudi who said the road was generally closed for three to four weeks each summer thanks to flooding.

"Sealing the road is definitely important but this is what will keep the network open," he said.

"When I talk to the department about it, they give me the same chicken and egg story, that there's not enough traffic to spend the money.

"I say to them, if you don't have bitumen, how can you expect the traffic."

The council estimates replacing the concrete crossing and small pipes with high cement box culverts would cost in the vicinity of $2 million.

Mr Boppudi said council had been lobbying for funds for all of the 10 years he had been in Hughenden, and mayor Jane McNamara told Mr Buchholz she understood the transport department had plans drawn up for a bridge design, being a state-controlled road, but the council had not been able to extract them.

Mr Boppudi said his research had shown replacing the bridge didn't fit under the federal bridge renewal program, being on a state road, but Mr Buchholz suggested a partnership between the state government, the Flinders Shire and the federal government.

"I need to make sure we have the scope in our programs but you get me some type of agreement with the department and we'll support that," he said.

It comes on the top of a council resolution to commit up to $1 million from general revenue in addition to its current and future TIDS allocation, if both state and federal governments agreed to enter a tripartite agreement with contributions to complete the Torrens Creek-Aramac Road sealing and Prairie Creek bridge replacement within five years.

The road still has 29km unsealed and the council estimates it will cost $25m to complete to dual lane bitumen standard, at $750,000 a kilometre using council gravel and labour, which Mr Boppudi described as "very cheap".

Cr McNamara said triple road trains wanted to use it because of the amount of hours it cut from a journey from northern Queensland to Victoria but had to slow to 20km/h to cross the dirt section.

She said their refrigeration suffered from the vibrations and there were up to 20 per cent losses in bananas from bruising.

Read more: Highway from Hell needs urgent funding

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