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Highway timetable 'unacceptable'

Larry Friske is among Gympie Region councillors keen for urgent progress on the Bruce Hwy’s Gympie by-pass.
Larry Friske is among Gympie Region councillors keen for urgent progress on the Bruce Hwy’s Gympie by-pass. Renee Pilcher

GYMPIE Mayor Ron Dyne has blasted the State Government's 20-year timetable for upgrading the Bruce Hwy as "totally unacceptable".

It was an assessment that drew immediate unanimous support from Gympie Region councillors, particularly works committee chairman Larry Friske, who has responsibility for road building and maintenance in the region.

It also drew support yesterday from the people who might soon have the say - Gympie's political representatives, federal Wide Bay MP Warren Truss and Gympie state MP David Gibson.

Mr Truss, who hoped to write the Federal Government's infrastructure and transport policy after the upcoming election, stood by his party's commitment last election to finish the Gympie Cooroy-to-Curra upgrade in half the time envisaged by Labor, with a completion date in 2020.

Mr Gibson said the highway was in a critical state and urgent work was needed now, starting with an engineering assessment to find out how bad its problems were.

"The word 'crisis' gets bandied around a lot, but it is reasonable to say now that the Bruce Hwy (through Gympie Region) is in crisis," Mr Gibson said yesterday.

Given a change of government at the upcoming state election, he said he would push for the establishment of a crisis group made up of federal and state ministers, local authority representatives and people from the trucking industry and motoring groups such as the RACQ.

"We saw this approach work at the Matilda intersection, when we had truck drivers, politicians, residents and the Transport Workers Union on site," he said.

"When people work together, things get done."

Mr Truss said his party made a commitment at the last federal election to have the highway upgraded by 2020, rather than Labor's estimate of completion in the 2030s decade.

"If there is a change of government soon, I think that is still quite achievable," he said yesterday.

Cr Dyne called for major acceleration of the project with an extension of the section currently under construction so it would link up with Tin Can Bay Rd and provide Gympie with safer and flood-free southern access.

He and Cr Friske also called for urgent completion through to Curra, with a two-lane road from Tin Can Bay Rd north as an interim step.

Councillors this week formally adopted Gympie Regional Council's submission to the State Government's Draft Bruce Hwy Upgrade Strategy, saying work was needed "much sooner given existing deficiencies and crash history".

"The crash rate is increasing and possible deferral of the major upgrade for up to 20 years is unacceptable to our community," the submission said.

Mr Gibson said he was "really impressed" with the council submission, "because the government keeps pushing out the time frame a little at a time," to minimise community anger. "Every year they seem to put out a report pushing the time frame back by two or three years," he said. "It's the smoke and mirrors we've been getting from this state government."

The council submission recommended completion of the highway to Gympie "in the next five to 10 years," with staged construction to the north, two lanes within 10 years and four lanes within 15 years.

Topics:  bruce highway upgrade

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