SLOW DRIVE TO ACTION
Federal Government urged to develop case for Kuranda Range
TRAFFIC on Kuranda Range has hit critical mass and cannot cope with an inevitable growth in freight and tourism.
Pressure is mounting for the Federal Government to dig deep and fund a new business case to create a four-lane highway.
PRESSURE is mounting on governments to take action neglected a decade ago and fix the Kuranda Range.
Cairns economist Bill Cummings helped create a 2006 study into upgrading the corridor under former Main Roads Minister Warren Pitt.
Tunnels, new routes, overhanging bridges – everything was on the table. It is time, he says, for the Federal Government to fund a new business case, regardless of the route’s status as a state road.
“At that time, the road had about 6400 average daily traffic movements,” he said.
“It was postulated that the design limit on the current road, after which there would be drastic problems, was 9500. “It’s now up to about 9000.” The most logical option was costed at almost $1 billion, giving motorists four lanes from Smithfield to Kuranda.
“At the time, a debate was going on about where Cairns’ expansion ought to go,” Mr Cummings said.
“There was a view to move the other side of Kuranda, in the Myola and Koah area. The government abandoned that and came up with the Mount Peter solution, spreading the population south on cane land.”
The acceleration of agricultural output, freight, and tourism and population growth mean a four-lane highway is a necessity, not a luxury, Mr Cummings said.
FNQ Growers president Joe Moro said the work should have been done years ago by the State Government, but in any event it was a national issue. One of reasons for high costs was the area’s World Heritage listing.
“It’s not something we asked for,” Mr Moro said.
“It’s something the rest of the country wants that restricts us, so it shouldn’t just be a burden for us as users.”
Barron River MP Craig Crawford said pulling billiondollar currency from the State Government – unless it was for cross-river rail in Brisbane – would be a tough ask.
He believed attacking the highway solution corner by corner in smaller stages would be simpler to achieve.
“Even though it’s not a federally funded road, there’s nothing stopping the Federal Government from making a commitment,” he said.
“They can say if the state does it, we will pay x amount.”
Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch said he would urge Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack to include the range on the Roads of Strategic Importance list.
“I can’t understand why (Queensland Transport Minister) Mark Bailey isn’t at least asking the Federal Government about this,” he said.
“The road is well and truly past its capacity.”
Enterprise North chief Kevin Byrne will press for the highway business case at meetings in Canberra this week.
FRUSTRATION: Cars and trucks in line at the base of the Kuranda Range, waiting for it to open.