Quest to end deaths on Qld horror hwy hits home
IN A show of strength, three mayors have met with Wide Bay MP Llew O'Brien and Hinkler MP Keith Pitt to lobby Canberra to prevent more deaths on one of Queensland's worst state roads.
Fraser Coast mayor Chris Loft was one of the mayors from across the region who met with Mr O'Brien and infrastructure and transport minister Darren Chester yesterday to discuss future upgrades on the Bruce Hwy.
The latest push follows six deaths in the first six months of 2017 on the stretch of the highway between Gympie and Maryborough.
It coincides with alarming statistics from RACQ, predicting at least 350 deaths and 5000 injuries on the Bruce Hwy over the next decade if no future action is taken.
RACQ spokeswoman Renee Smith said better infrastructure was the only way to reduce road deaths.
"There remains a real risk of death and injury on the Bruce Hwy if vital safety upgrades are not completed," Ms Smith said.
"The Bruce is one of the deadliest highways in Queensland. (It) only accounts for 33% of the length of national highway in Queensland but has recorded 59% of the total deaths on those national highways."
In recent months, Mr O'Brien has called for a four-lane upgrade for the entire highway, with a barrier erected between north and south bound traffic to prevent more head-on collisions.
Speaking in federal parliament last night, Mr O'Brien, a former police officer, said the upgrade would help reduce the number of deaths on the highway, which now stands at an average of 50 per year.
"Statistics tell part of the story, but when you make the gut-wrenching walk to someone's doorstep and tell them their loved one isn't coming home you realise the full magnitude of it," Mr O'Brien said.
"13,800 vehicles travel on this highway through Gympie each day, with 173 casualty crashes and 25 deaths between 2003 and 2007.
"Traffic accidents are a burden on our nation, and one death is one too many."
The proposed Cooroy to Curra upgrade involves a 62km upgrade and realignment of the highway, with three of the four sections already complete.
Section D of the project involves an upgrade of a 26km stretch between Woondum to Currra and the construction of a bypass at Gympie, close to Old Maryborough Rd.
In 2014 the highway was named as one of the world's top 25 most dangerous roads, alongside Bolivia's infamous 'Death Road' and the Trans-Siberian Hwy.
Fraser Coast businessman, Terry Elmer knows all too well the danger that faces motorists on the Bruce Hwy.
His business Elmers Removals makes hundreds of trips each year between Maryborough and Gympie.
"There certainly are some dangerous parts to it, and there are areas that can be made better," Mr Elmer said.
"I haven't had any incidents on the highway personally, but I know of the incidents that have happened through this year.
"There are upgrades that need to happen."
Aside from the boost to safety, Mr O'Brien said the upgrade would help provide better trade routes between the north and south of Queensland.
Because the highway acts as a critical link to regional centres in Gympie, Maryborough and Bundaberg, the upgrades would allow more freight to travel between the regional cities.
Fraser Coast mayor Chris Loft said the upgrade would provide a boost to the economic sustainability of the region by cutting travel times.
"An improved, safe highway would make it easier for the region to get goods to south-east Queensland markets and access the Brisbane port," Cr Loft said.
"This area needs jobs, either by increasing our appeal as a tourist destination or a destination for businesses people looking for a lifestyle change."