SLOW DRIVE TO AC­TION

Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment urged to de­velop case for Ku­randa Range

The Cairns Post - - FRONT PAGE - CHRIS CALCINO

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.

Pic­ture: JUSTIN BRIERTY

FRUS­TRA­TION: Cars and trucks in line at the base of the Ku­randa Range, wait­ing for it to open.

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