Major milestone for Haughton River Floodplain Upgrade

The $514.3 million Haughton River Floodplain Upgrade project recorded a major milestone this week, with the first traffic switch onto the new Bruce Highway at Giru.

A further switch will take place later this week, meaning motorists would be using the new wider and safer highway between Greenacres and the approaches to the Reed Beds.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Barnaby Joyce said the project is another example of George Christensen's determination to deliver for people of North Queensland, to make sure the infrastructure they need and deserve is funded and delivered.

"This is another example of the Federal Liberal and Nationals Government's record $110 billion infrastructure investment plan in action, helping to connect communities and improve safety, while creating jobs and supporting our economic recovery," the Deputy Prime Minister said.

"The Federal Government is investing over $10 billion in a safer, smoother and more reliable Bruce Highway. This will benefit Queenslanders, from Brisbane to Cairns, on this key north-south route."

Queensland Minister for Transport and Main Roads Mark Bailey said the upgrade of the highway over the Haughton River flloodplain was a critical part of Queensland's Covid-19 economic recovery plan.

"This is a section of highway that was notorious for being cut off after major wet weather events," Mr Bailey said.

"We last saw that occur during Townsville's 2019 monsoon event.

"Making this section of highway more flood resilient means a safer highway that keeps critical freight moving to support North Queensland's economy, particularly during times of disaster."

Mr Bailey flagged the travel improvements realised as part of the project extended further than during the wet season.

"As part of the Haughton River Floodplain Upgrade project, highway overpasses of cane railways have been built at Upper Haughton and Hodel Roads, as well as at Shirbourne Road," he said.

"These overpasses eliminate the need for Bruce Highway traffic to stop for the 60 cane trains which pass through the area each day, significantly improving travel times for locals, tourism traffic and the freight industry."

Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen said the project will improve freight reliability for Queensland's north-south general supply chain, enhance regional connectivity for key industries and boost accessibility for rural residents travelling to Townsville for essential health services.

"Safety will be enhanced with the elimination of two at-grade rail crossings at the Bruce Highway intersections with the Woodstock Giru Road and Hodel Road, south of Haughton," Mr Christensen said.

"Once final works at the remaining bridge are completed over coming weeks, traffic will then be switched on to the final section of new Bruce Highway across the Reed Beds and up to Palm Creek in early September.

"These are significant milestones, as the project tracks toward completion.

"Today's traffic switch means motorists are using five out of the seven bridges and overpasses being built as part of this important project, and 8.9 kilometres of the total 13.5 kilometres of the upgraded highway.

"Additionally, in a couple of days, that will increase to include the sixth bridge and a further 2.6 kilometres of new highway being driven on.

"In what will most certainly be very welcome news to the people of North Queensland, traffic is now using the wider and higher Haughton River bridge, which includes bridge rails unlike the existing, narrow and ageing structure."

State Assistant Regional Roads Minister Bruce Saunders said work would now begin on finalising local road connections to the new highway at Upper Haughton and Hodel Roads, Shirbourne Road and Piralko Road.

"Over coming months, works will also include the demolition of three bridges (now that they have been replaced with higher and more flood-resilient bridges), demolition of existing road, final surface layers and road furnishings," Mr Saunders said.

"Not only will the replacement bridges provide motorists with more secure access between Ayr and Townsville, even in the wet season, but new crossings of the flood-prone Reed Beds area will also contribute to much less frequent road closures.

"Making regional highways safer and more flood resilient is key part of the $27.5 billion roads and transport investment plan that will be delivered by the Palaszczuk Government over the next four years.

"That pipeline of projects in that plan will support more than 24,000 jobs, most of them in regional parts of our state."

The upgrade is estimated to support an average of 544 jobs over the construction life of the project.

The $514.3 million Haughton River Floodplain Upgrade is jointly funded by the Australian and Queensland governments under the Bruce Highway Upgrade Program on an 80:20 basis, representing commitments of $411.4 million and $102.9 million, respectively.

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