What will happen if state doesn’t get ‘second Bruce’ funds?
The Queensland Government has locked in $200 million of funds for a new inland highway, which it says will be spent regardless of whether the Federal Government decides to chip in the additional $800 million.
The Inland Freight Route was announced as the ‘second Bruce Highway’ by the Labor Party during the 2020 State Election campaign in October, and will include major upgrades to the Gregory, Dawson and Carnarvon Highways to allow larger road trains to travel the route.
Minister for Transport and Main Roads Mark Bailey said TMR will conduct planning across the entire route from Mungindi to Charters Towers to find the deficiencies in the existing road and determine projects that will be needed to address them.
He also said there were already projects under way along that route.
“That route is already recognised as nationally important by the Federal Government under its Roads of Strategic Importance scheme and as a long term priority initiative by Infrastructure Australia,” Mr Bailey said.
“We already have $125 million in joint funding locked in for upgrades along that route that are underway or due to start soon under the ROSI scheme.
“In fact, works just started on the Carnarvon Highway on a project to widen the highway and deliver safety upgrades at Orange Hill, north of Roma.”
On top of that, he said the State Government had already committed $200 million towards the Inland Freight Route, and had requested an additional $800 from the Federal Government.
This is part of an 80:20 funding split for the $1 billion project.
“Queensland’s $200 million is fully committed and will be spent on upgrading the route, regardless of what the Federal Government decides,” Mr Bailey said.
The project will mainly consist of upgrades to the existing route between Townsville and the New South Wales border and is expected to be completed in 10-15 years time, according to Infrastructure Australia.
Mr Bailey said the entire corridor would be studied to see which projects would need to go ahead, and TMR was currently planning road widening and strengthening, intersection and bridge upgrades, and culvert widening and resilience upgrades for the Carnarvon Highway.
“Planning is also underway on the northern section of the Gregory Developmental Road, focused on road widening and strengthening needs,” he said.
He said TMR was not currently planning bypasses for Roma or Emerald, however Queensland Trucking Association CEO Gary Mahon floated the idea of an Emerald Bypass in 2020.
“Corridor and project planning will determine the need for both urban and rural upgrades along the highway as a whole to accommodate the route’s future needs,” Mr Bailey said.
“Specific project planning will then determine priority projects to be delivered, within available funding, to improve the productivity, safety and flood immunity of the Inland Freight Route.”
Mr Bailey said the funding for the Inland Freight Route was not linked to the existing Bruce Highway Upgrade Program.
It is understood the Federal Government will consider whether or not to fund the additional $800 million for the next budget.
“The Australian Government has committed over $10 billion towards the Bruce Highway Upgrade Program and $1.07 billion to regional freight routes under the Roads of Strategic Importance initiative in Queensland,” a Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications spokeswoman said.
“The Government would consider any funding proposal for land transport infrastructure through the Budget processes, should the Queensland Government identify it as a priority and seek funding from the Australian Government.”
The spokeswoman could not confirm whether the Australian Government would fund it at this stage.
“We will continue to negotiate with the Australian Government to secure a commitment to jointly fund long-term upgrades on this critical freight route,” Mr Bailey said.
Could the Inland Freight Route spark other road upgrades?
The State Government is considering how the Inland Freight Route will affect other corridors such as the Warrego Highway, as part of long-term planning.
Labor announced during the 2020 election it wanted to get AB Quad road trains from Roma to Toowoomba as a key priority.
“TMR is considering the current and future requirements for heavy vehicle access on the overall state-controlled network,” Mr Bailey said.
The department is currently considering further upgrades to the Warrego between Dinmore to Helidon Spa, to get the road up to motorway standard.
Mr Bailey said funds for existing Bruce Highway programs would not be diverted as part of the Inland Freight Route project and would still go ahead.
“We’re fully committed to the $12.6 billion Bruce Highway Upgrade Program and all projects that have been prioritised within that to date, including the Rockhampton Ring Road,” he said.
READ MORE: State’s $800m plea for inland highway