'The most dangerous Bruce Hwy stretch is now fatality free'
A FORMER crash investigator himself, Llew O'Brien said the newly completed stretch of the Bruce Highway south of Gympie was proof that better roads could save lives.
Having worked on the stretch around the turn of the century, the Wide Bay MP said the difference between the old highway and Section C was like night and day.
"Every time my phone would ring after nine o'clock it usually meant someone had died, and it usually meant I was driving down this road to another fatality," Mr O'Brien said.
"Since this has been engineered and we have this new road it's fatality free.
"It's turned what was the most dangerous stretch of highway in Australia fatality-free."
Having just toured the site of the "chaotic" stretch which claimed a young man's life on New Year's Day, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said the $384 million highway upgrade was part of a vision for growing regional Australia.
"The vision that you want ultimately is that you'll be starting north of Gympie... and that you can get on a dual carriageway road and keep driving until you get to Melbourne," Mr Joyce said.
"And do it with as few, if any, traffic lights.
"There's always going to be a bottleneck but there's got to be a vision to keep moving that thing north."
Along with better safety, he said improvements like Section C and the to-be-constructed Section D were also crucial in the growth of regional areas.
And the amount of work which went into the new section was not small.
According to a spokesman for the Department of Transport and Main Roads, the investment in improving safety has not been insignificant according to the raw figures.
At a length of 10.5km, about 150,000 tonnes of asphalt were used on the new highway and its off ramps, while excavators moved up to 25,000cu m of earth each day.
A total of 13 new bridges were built, totalling 875m in length, and requiring the pouring of 120 concrete bridge piles, the shifting of about two million cubic metres of earth, and the diversions of four waterways.
Truck convoys carted more than 100 bridge deck units, which each weighed 26 tonne and were up to 24 metres long, and 172 large "Super T" girders were used as bridge supports, each up to 85 tonnes in weight.
There was also 14km of fauna fencing installed alongside the highway to help protect wildlife.
Mr O'Brien said the results were already showing.
"The real estate market is going gangbusters here at the moment," he said. "Primarily it's about saving lives.
"But at the end of the day roads like this are all about decentralisation and growing regional Australia.
"It's not an instant fix, but these are the fixes to housing affordability prices, decentralising, building out and not up. We've got plenty of land and we need to start using it."