Cairns to Northern Tablelands Access Strategy released

Minister for Transport and Main Roads The Honourable Mark Bailey

A study to investigate transport routes between Cairns and the Northern Tablelands has been released, to assist in future planning for the region.

Member for Barron River Craig Crawford said the $1.6 million planning study identified current transport issues in the region, future needs and suggested solutions.

“The outcome of planning has informed the Cairns to Northern Tablelands Access Strategy – our roadmap of initiatives and investment over the short, medium and long term to deliver the right infrastructure when and where it is needed most,” Mr Crawford said.

“Our research found that 93 per cent of trips on Kuranda Range Road, are within two minutes of the expected travel time, which is 12 minutes from top of the range to Smithfield.

“While there are clear challenges, this demonstrates that the existing road is not operating at its capacity.”

Mr Crawford said the strategy set out the next steps for a long-term alternative route, once capacity of the existing roads would be reached.

“The main challenges identified in the planning study relate to network resilience, travel reliability and freight access,” he said.

“The access strategy provides 59 recommendations to respond to these challenges, which include safety and resilience upgrades aiming to reduce the frequency and duration of closures due to severe weather events and crashes.

“One of these recommendations was the installation of an Intelligent Transport System, which we have already taken steps to undertake.”

Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said early works for the $30 million Intelligent Transport System upgrade on Kuranda Range began in August.

“This system will allow our teams to communicate real time travel information with drivers and improve reliability along the range,” Mr Bailey said.

“The technology also facilitates variable speed limit signs, which are proven to reduce the number of rear-end casualty crashes and will integrate with new technology in the future.

“For instance, with the technology on wet, foggy days, the speed may be reduced to minimise the risk of crashes which then hold up all traffic for hours while it is being responded to and then cleared.

“This technology has proven very effective on the Bruce Highway north of Brisbane at reducing the number of rear end crashes and thereby increasing the reliability of the road for all drivers.

“Projects like this form part of the Palaszczuk Government’s record $27.5 billion roads and transport investment plan over four years, which is creating 24, 000 jobs, and helping to drive Queensland’s economic recovery from COVID-19.”

Mr Bailey said the planning did not recommend any immediate further investigations for major upgrades or new routes.

“What this study tells us is there is currently no clear technical justification for a major upgrade of existing routes, or construction of a new road along a new alignment,” he said.

“There is no need for the deceptively named “bridle track” that is in fact a proposed new highway which would plough through National Park between Cairns and Mareeba – destroying unique ecology in the Dindin National Park in the process.

“With 12 kilometres of proposed tunnelling involved in this track, it would be a multi-billion dollar project without any need or justification that would destroy an estimated 140 to 160 hectares of rainforest, resulting in the loss of approximately 80,000 to 100,000 mature trees.

“This proposed highway is a project no government would ever build due to its hideous cost and destruction of a heritage listed national park.

“Based on real data to come from this study, our main planning priority remains identifying a long-term plan for the bridge over Barron River near Kuranda.”

Mr Crawford said the study was another example of the Palaszczuk Government delivering big for the Far North.

“There is an infrastructure boom underway in Cairns, with major road investments ramping up as part of Queensland’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan,” he said.

“We are delivering nearly $1.8 billion in roads and transport infrastructure in the region over the next four years.

“Late last year we completed the fully state funded, $164 million Smithfield Bypass project, which will provide safer travel and reduce congestion through the area.

“The $300 million Cairns Western Arterial Road (CWAR) duplication is also in the detailed design phase and early works are already underway on the $359 million Cairns Ring Road upgrade.

“Projects like these will help get locals home to their families faster and make the road safer.”

A $2.1 million project to undertake planning for the Barron River Bridge has commenced and is on track for completion in late 2022.

The access strategy can be viewed online.

Testing of the Barron River Bridge will be undertaken between 9am and 3pm, Monday to Saturday.

Changed traffic conditions will be in place so drivers are urged to plan their journey in advance and follow the direction of signage.

For up-to-date information about state-controlled roads, visit the QLDTraffic website or call 13 19 40.

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