BELIEVE it or not, these were serviceable Central Highlands’ roads before they were gouged, scoured or simply swept away by floodwaters.
“They’re a living nightmare,” said Mayor Peter Maguire who estimated there was $70 million in damage around the 60,000sq km council area, particularly in the south and east.
“Roads, business and real estate are the biggest hits we’re going to take from this flood.”
A Main Roads representative last week told Queensland Recovery Taskforce chief Major General Mick Slater the department was “doing its darndest to keep it (Central Highlands’ roads) safe, but if coal and cattle are put on the network there will be highly accelerated damage”.
Cr Maguire said he pressed the point for the Vince Lester Bridge to be raised level with the Shell service station corner with Deputy Premier Paul Lucas and Main Roads Minister Craig Wallace.
The plight of Rolleston, cut off since early December until the Carnarvon Highway reopened last Friday, is another cause the Mayor is keen to push as he builds his case for a flood-proof inland highway.
“When you’ve got no rail and you can’t get people out of town (in a flooding event), you have to make a decision like this because where do we go from here?” he posed.
“There has to be some serious consideration made to looking at a structure that is at least the same height as the rail bridge.
“The Deputy Premier and I were standing there and he was shaking his head, but I mean, what do you do?”
Member for Gregory Vaughan Johnson expressed real concerns for graziers trying to get cattle to market or the meatworks.
“The roads are out of business for roadtrains particularly after the flood,” Mr Johnson said.
“Shires are going to need a power of assistance to get those transport corridors operational.
“All cattle in Queensland are prime, fat and ready for processing and the situation is critical to this scenario we’re confronted with.”
Minister Wallace predicted getting roads “up to speed will take a couple of years”.
A central group had been set up to oversee load restrictions across the state, he added.
“I make no apologies for ensuring that roads aren’t chewed up because of heavy traffic,” he said.
“We need to keep our roads open and safe.
“If we allow heavy vehicles on our roads when the pavement is saturated, we will see significant damage on those roads and the billion dollar bill will be doubled.
“… The road between Emerald and Rolleston is out and will be out for a while.
“Also I know the flood immunity of the Vince Lester Bridge is a concern for locals.
“That would be a very expensive exercise to duplicate that bridge or build a new one, but it’s probably something we need to look at.”
Minister Wallace said flood-proofing measures would be priority when rebuilding damaged roads in the worst-hit council areas of Emerald, St George, Rockhampton and Banana.
But first, floodwaters have to fully recede to assess the extent of the damage.
“We want to build roads so they are in a better condition to what they were before the flooding, and part of this exercise is coming out and talking to people on the ground like the mayor,” Minister Wallace said in Emerald.
“We want to look at making the roads better prepared to withstand floods.
“When we rebuild roads we want to ensure they have better flood immunity.”
Minister Wallace conceded getting funding to repair the road network was contingent on the Commonwealth “stepping up to the plate” and a slice of a tough State budget.
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