By Mehroz Siraj
The largest single road network of the country, Queensland’s Bruce Highway, will receive a funding of up to $4billion for reconstruction over a the next decade, the budget papers reveal.
Although Prime Minister Julia Gillard had announced this new funding while addressing the media in Rockhampton last month, the finer details of the funding plans have only surfaced in recent days.
According to newer revelations, as reported by the Queensland press, out of the pledged amount, $637million would be spent for the reconstruction of parts of the highway in the next financial year that starts on July 1.
According to the finer details in the budget papers, these new investments would be specifically targeted towards increasing laneways on either side of the highway and for establishing resting areas along the 1,700 kilometre road network.
Special attention would also be given towards the flood damaged areas and black-spots along the highway, the budget reports reveal.
Relevant investments would be made to make the highway more flood resistant, by introducing various new flood resistant technologies, according to reports published in the Sunshine Coast Daily.
Amongst many of the proposals presented to achieve this outcome, one of them has been about raising the height of the highway in some of the regions where it had been battered by the floods in previous years.
This proposal has been accepted.
The government’s original revelation of this funding in April was a result of months of direct lobbying from Queensland’s motorists, the state government and the state’s print media.
All these stakeholders had been calling on the government to take this issue seriously as patchy roads along the highway and narrow lanes were becoming a leading cause of casualties on Queensland’s roads.
According to estimates made by the state’s peak body for motorists, the RACQ, approximately 40 people are losing their lives annually along the highway.
The RACQ believes that these casualties are a result of poor roads, poor street lighting and the flood devastation that the highway network has had to cope with in the past.
Although a massive investment, organizations such as RACQ and the Queensland government headed by Premier Campbell Newman believe that the required investments are approximately $8billion.
According to Queensland transport minister, Scott Emerson, the federal government’s funding pledge would just be enough for supporting the regular and ongoing maintenance works along the highway.
This funding would be insufficient to carry out the required large scale reconstruction works, he said.
Over the last six years, the federal government has spent approximately $6billion on works along the highway.
Going by this calculation, the Coalition under Tony Abbott would have to fork out funds in excess of $8billion over the next decade in order to undertake and complete the required reconstruction works.
In his bid to outdo the government’s pledged funding, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said recently that if elected in the September elections, his government would pledge $8billion towards the reconstruction works on the highway over the next decade.
Previously, Premier Newman had already pledged to contribute an extra 20 per cent of funding from state coffers on top of the investments being made by the post-September federal government on this vital infrastructure project.
Undertaking the required reconstruction along the Bruce Highway would be a step forward in reducing the annual death toll along the nation’s most dangerous highway, the RACQ argues.
The reconstruction would also create more jobs and play a vital role in boosting Queensland’s ailing economy, analysts believe.