FUNDS CONCERN: A fatal crash scene on the Bruce Hwy near Curra is the important issue behind the budget politics.
FUNDS CONCERN: A fatal crash scene on the Bruce Hwy near Curra is the important issue behind the budget politics. Arthur Gorrie

O'Brien denies Labor's 'highway robbery' budget claim

EVEN as the Bruce Hwy's Section C upgrade to Gympie nears completion, with another big milestone just announced, the Queensland government says the rest of the project is being delayed by the federal government.

Queensland Transport Minister Mark Bailey has told state parliament a new analysis of the federal budget has confirmed about $350 million in missing funds, earmarked for Queensland roads projects.

Of this, he says more than $100 million is missing from the Bruce Hwy Contingency Fund.

Mr Bailey says he was stunned by the discovery.

His claim expands on federal budget comments by his federal ALP colleague, shadow infrastructure minister Anthony Albanese, who said Senate budget estimate hearings had confirmed there was no new money for the Bruce Hwy in the budget.

Gympie's Wide Bay federal MP Llew O'Brien has backed concern over this, in response to figures showing figures showing the new deadliest stretch of the Bruce Hwy runs through his electorate, from Gympie north.

But he said Mr Albanese seemed to have misunderstood the budgeting process, which allowed for flexible decision-making, to deal with construction cost fluctuations.

"It is a pity the (federal) Shadow Transport Minister doesn't understand how the infrastructure and transport budget works,” Mr O'Brien said.

"The Coalition government has committed to a $6.7 billion, 10-year program of works and has not cancelled a single project on the Bruce Hwy,” he said.

In Queensland, Mr Bailey says otherwise.

"They've raided the Bruce. This is a joint $8.5 billion Bruce Highway Upgrade Programme to improve safety, flood immunity and capacity, it's not a bank for the Turnbull Government to pilfer funds out of," Mr Bailey said.

"Around $90 million of the wider Queensland Contingency Fund for other roads is also missing.

"If you add the missing $150 million in Northern Australia Roads Programme funding, that totals around $350 million in funds ripped out of Queensland."

Mr Bailey said the Bruce Highway continues to be a key priority under the Palaszczuk Government.

"The Bruce Highway Upgrade Program is the largest program of roadworks currently underway in Queensland supporting around 2,400 jobs throughout the life of the program," Mr Bailey said.

Meanwhile, Section C of the Cooroy to Curra Bruce Highway upgrade is rapidly approaching completion, with work now proceeding on its last two bridges.

Federal Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester said the continuing project would link with Sections B and A, which was fully opened to traffic in recent weeks.

"This is a project that will change lives and save lives when it is completed. Upgrading the Bruce Highway is a priority project of the Australian Government's infrastructure roll out, and work on these two bridges signals great progress on the Section C works," Mr Chester said.

"Further north, we will be investing $11.2 million to improve safety at the intersection of the Bruce and Wide Bay Highways, and $30.4 million to upgrade the Tinana interchange. This is part of the Australian and Queensland Government's 10-year $8.5 billion Bruce Highway Upgrade Programme, with the Australian Government committing to provide funding of up to $6.7 billion."

Queensland Minister for Main Roads and Road Safety Mark Bailey said all bridge works on the project would be completed by the second half of the year, with the entire project on track for completion in early 2018, weather permitting.

The progress was something Mr Bailey and Mr O'Brien could agree onl

"Section C will see 10.5 kilometres of new four-lane divided highway built between Traveston and Woondum and progress to date has been outstanding. Works were originally scheduled for completion mid-2018, but this date has been brought forward," Mr Bailey said.

"172 girders have been used as supports for other bridges on the project, which can be up to 35 metres long and weigh 85 tonnes. Over the next week, we'll see even more activity, with eighteen deck units being delivered each day."

Mr O'Brien said more than 400 jobs would be created over the life of the project.

"The Section C upgrade will help to unlock our region's economic potential, increasing the capacity and safety of the highway for motorists travelling between Cooroy, Gympie and beyond," Mr O'Brien said.

"Sections A and B of the four lane project have transformed the deadliest section of highway into a fatality free stretch, and when completed Section C will also make a huge difference to driver safety and reducing accident rates.”

The $384.2 million Bruce Highway - Cooroy to Curra - Section C project is jointly funded with the Australian Government committing $307.4 million and the Queensland Government $76.8 million.

Gympie Times


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