What an inland Bruce Hwy would mean for our region and city
CARNAGE and debris strewn across both lanes, a dead truck driver, traumatised first responders and a community in mourning.
This horrific scene is one that plays out multiple times every year without fail up and down the 1700km stretch of Queensland's notorious Bruce Highway.
The latest death was a 64-year-old truck driver who was killed when his B-double collided with a semi-trailer along the highway south of Townsville on the morning of November 24.
The killer highway is Queensland's busiest thoroughfare, carrying anywhere between 2300 up to 162000 vehicles in certain sections, with over 637 injuries and fatalities recorded in the 2018/2019 financial year, and 19 fatals throughout the 2019 calendar year.
In a last-minute bid to win over regional voters ahead of the October 31 Queensland election, Annastacia Palaszczuk announced a bold plan to build an inland, "second Bruce Hwy" from Mungindi to Charters Towers, via Roma and Emerald in Western Queensland which would reduce the coastal Bruce Hwy's truck traffic by up to 49 per cent.
The new inland highway would cut down truck commute times by two hours from Sydney and five hours from Melbourne, and ultimately lessen the annual carnage witnessed by communities along the Queensland coastline where the Bruce Hwy cuts through.
LESS DEATHS, MORE TOURISM:
FRASER Coast mayor George Seymour has seen his community rocked by dozens of road deaths along the Bruce Hwy, which carries 10,000 vehicles south of Maryborough and 8000 to the north.
The Heritage City community was rocked by a tragic truck crash that cost the lives of a young couple at Torbanlea at 1.45am on June 21 this year.
Maryborough couple Connor Andersen, 21, and Chloe McArthur, 17, died on the scene of the crash after their sedan collided with a heavy vehicle on the way back from a late night driving lesson.
"An inland Bruce Hwy will be an overall positive, road safety is a priority for the state and our community," Cr Seymour said.
"That's the idea of the second Bruce Highway - is to get the larger trucks off of the road then that'll make road trips much more pleasurable and a better option for families."
Cr Seymour said more intersection treatments, such as turning and entry lanes, on the existing Bruce Hwy are still necessary to reduce road deaths and boost tourism.
If any Queensland city is known for its heavy industry, it would be Gladstone.
Mayor Matt Burnett also administers major Bruce Highway towns like Miriam Value, Benaraby, and Calliope and believes the 'second Bruce' will have multiple benefits for his region.
"The Bruce Highway is certainly somewhere we don't want road train movements," Cr Burnett said.
"Any expenditure of a regional highway is good news for Regional Queensland."
And while increased truck movements through inland Central Queensland would mean more economic development to the port city of Gladstone, Cr Burnett would like to know more information about the proposed inland highway.
"If it's taking 49 per cent of the vehicle movements off the highway I'd like to see that statistic," he said.
The project will be valued at $1 billion, with an 80/20 split between the Federal and State government, but Cr Burnett believes more than $200 million needs to be spent for the project to be worth its while.
"I 100 per cent support the investment and it'll need to be more than $200 million," he said.
"You can't build a good bridge for that."
While the Bruce through the Gladstone region is still heavily trafficked, Cr Burnett said his community doesn't 'fear' driving on the roads at this point in time.
"I don't think there's a fear but it needs money to be spent," he said.
"As long as you drive sensibly and you make sure you have enough sleep and you're not distracted.
Many Queensland towns have built a significant portion of their economies on the thoroughfares that passes through, and economic change can be dramatic when the road conditions are changed.
The future of the Bruce Highway through Childers is controversial to say the least, with heavy debate over the previous years about whether or not the town should be bypassed.
Childers carries about 7800 vehicles through the main street each day due to the Bruce Hwy, but many of these travellers stop by to grab a bite to eat or do some shopping.
Bundaberg Regional Council deputy mayor Bill Trevor is proud to call Childers his hometown, but is not keen on seeing a full bypass being built for the scenic town.
"Childers has always loved having the highway through town due to the access it brings to our businesses from the travellers," Cr Trevor said.
He welcomed the 'second Bruce Highway' proposal because the removal for 49 per cent of trucks will help delay any potential Childers Bypass, and continue to have travellers pass through town and support local businesses.
"It may even call into question whether or not it's required," he said.
"Sooner or later if you're unable to remove some of the heavy vehicles, you'd end up with a total bypass."