Truss pledges $8bn for Bruce
THE battle is on for the Bruce Hwy.
And the Sunshine Coast is ready to grab its chunk of the funding pledges being made in the lead-up to the September federal election.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard released a 10-year, $4.1 billion lifeline for the Bruce Hwy on Wednesday, including $400 million for a Sunshine Coast stretch.
The federal funding is expected to be allocated in the May Budget.
Shadow infrastructure spokesman and Member for Wide Bay Warren Truss, pre-empted any major LNP announcement by pledging a Coalition government would double highway funding to $8 billion over 10 years in an 80:20 funding split with the State Government.
Mr Truss was part of the group of politicians and industry groups last year to formulate a Bruce Hwy action plan that called for an extra $4 billion from the Federal Government.
Six lanes from Caboolture to the Sunshine Coast was not on the priority list.
The $400 million federal pledge would help cover the costs of the stage one safety upgrades of the Caloundra Rd to Sunshine Mwy stretch, which carries almost 60,000 vehicles each day.
This includes improving the exit ramp from Ettamogah Pub to the Bruce Hwy, the closure of the Sippy Creek Rd right turn off the highway and installing a loop from the Sunshine Mwy to the Bruce Hwy.
Widening the 7km stretch to six lanes is not on the immediate "to-do list".
Local politicians have welcomed the funding pledge but say there is still work to be done to push for further funding to widen 46km highway shortfall to Caboolture.
LNP candidate for Fisher Mal Brough said the Federal Government's funding commitment would not solve the Coast's highway woes.
"This 7km upgrade isn't going to address the needs of the Sunshine Coast community in having better access for day trippers," Mr Brough said.
"This isn't addressing the situation at all because this isn't going to improve traffic flows to and from Brisbane.
"It won't change the experience for the drive trade and that is a key issue for the Coast as we fight for the tourism dollar."
Queensland Infrastructure Minister Jeff Seeney labelled the Gillard Government's funding announcement as a scam, saying the Federal Government has failed to commit new funding as demanded by the highway action plan.
ALP candidate for Fisher Bill Gissane welcomed the funding commitment but said it was not worth playing political games.
"It is very foolish to get into game-playing here of whether it is new money or pre-exiting money. Why not take advantage of this offer?" he said.
"I will still work towards three lanes each way from Caloundra to Caboolture.
"I am a fierce advocate in getting the road upgraded. My priority to get our southern visitors in and out easily and comfortably."
Member for Fisher Peter Slipper said he had been a long-time champion of upgrading the Bruce Hwy.
"I strongly encourage the Queensland Government to embrace a partnership with the Federal Government and focus attention on negotiations for the timetable for the next round of targeted improvements," he said.
LNP candidate for Fairfax Ted O'Brien said the upgrade of the Bruce Hwy was an "absolute priority".
He said to expect a major Bruce Hwy announcement by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott in the lead-up to the election.
"This is not just about not believing the false promises of the Gillard Government, it's about which party can better manage the economy thereby enabling infrastructure spending.
"I think we need to start putting together a compelling case to not only fix the Bruce Hwy at the Sunshine Coast, but to put the proposition that the upgrade could unleash the productivity capacity of the Coast."