A $1.6-million study which investigated alternative transport routes between Cairns and the Northern Tablelands has found the Kennedy Highway is not at capacity, so there is ‘no need’ for alternative routes.
The State Government study, which has been delayed several times, found there will be sufficient capacity on the Kuranda Range until at least 2051.
That’s despite the proposed KUR-World eco-resort at Myola lapsing in 2019 amid concerns about traffic projections.
Transport Minister Mark Bailey says the most recent investigation found 93 per cent of trips on the Range are within two minutes of the expected travel time, which is 12 minutes.
"What this study tells us is there is currently no clear technical justification for a major upgrade of existing routes, or construction of a new road along a new alignment,” he said.
“There is no need for the deceptively named Bridle Track that is in fact a proposed new highway which would plough through National Park between Cairns and Mareeba – destroying unique ecology in the Dindin National Park in the process.
“With 12 kilometres of proposed tunnelling involved in this track, it would be a multi-billion dollar project without any need or justification that would destroy an estimated 140 to 160 hectares of rainforest, resulting in the loss of approximately 80,000 to 100,000 mature trees.”
However, the study didn’t rule out the need for a tunelled highway into the future.
It set out the next steps for a long-term alternative once capacity is reached.
“Sections of the new link may need to be tunelled or elevated to reduce severance and impacts of construction and operation,” the document reads.
“Geotechnical surveys will be required to better understand the ground conditions and potential for sections of tunnel or elevated structures.
“To progress long-term planning, TMR intends to engage with the Australian Government and other Queensland Government departments including the Department of State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning which would lead the development of a future Regional Plan for Far North Queensland.”
Member for Barron River Craig Crawford said based on the study’s data, the planning focus should remain on finding a long-term solution for the ageing Barron Rive bridge on the Kuranda Range.
A preliminary report on whether the structure will need to be replaced is due at year’s end.
The bridge will return to single lane next week as engineers look into whether last year's repairs are holding up.
Mr Crawford said one of the other recommendations, to install an Intelligent Transport System, is already underway with early works on the $30-million system beginning in August.
“The access strategy provides 59 recommendations to respond to these challenges, which include safety and resilience upgrades aiming to reduce the frequency and duration of closures due to severe weather events and crashes.
“One of these recommendations was the installation of an Intelligent Transport System, which we have already taken steps to undertake.”
The study also endorsed a review of speed limits on the Palmerston, Gillies and Kennedy Highways, along with the Mount Molloy Mossman Road.
Read the full report here.
- State Government study says Kuranda Range won't reach capacity until at least 2051
- It says there is no immediate need for an alternative route to the Atherton Tablelands from Cairns
- The report authors have made 59 recommendations to improve traffic flow and safety