Cairns ring road plans firming up following potential Budget bonanza
Confusion over the who, what and where of a proposed Cairns ring road may finally be lifting, with Council and local lobby groups agreeing on a proposed route after years of discussion.
First floated in 2015, the ring road idea is back in the spotlight today, following a potential funding windfall announced in last night's Federal Budget.
The infrastructure centrepiece of Treasurer Scott Morrison's Budget was a 10-year, $50 billion plan for roads, rail and runways.
Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch believes this “bucket of money” could be ideal for the mooted ring road, provided a formal proposal and funding application is submitted first.
“I think this is a fantastic initiative but the reality is that we only had Advance Cairns, the Chamber of Commerce and Cairns Regional Council come to a consensus on the route a matter of months ago,” Mr Entsch told TropicNow.
“Prior to this we had some of the proponents favouring a route along Sheridan St past the airport, while others wanted the National Highway extension to go through Redlynch and Caravonica to link up with the Smithfield roundabout.
“The proposal for a ring road that would incorporate both these routes makes a lot of sense.
“It’ll mean that the Bruce Highway from the south will be connected to the Captain Cook and Kennedy Highways to the north, incorporating the port, airport and industrial areas such as Portsmith and Stratford.”
CAIRNS RING ROAD: WHAT IS IT?
At various times, both Advance Cairns and Cairns Regional Council have talked about a potential ring road that involves extending the Bruce Highway along Sheridan St to the Smithfield roundabout, and back along the Western Arterial road to rejoin the Bruce Highway.
Creating an extension of the national highway means the bulk of funding for construction and maintenance would sit squarely on the shoulders of the Federal Government.
The proposal has been talked about for several years, first gaining prominence in 2015 when the council floated the idea in a submission to the Federal Government. The wording of the submission appears in full on the Advance Cairns website under the title "The National Highway".
The peak economic development group describes the ring road as providing the “missing link” in connecting infrastructure and easing freight services woes.
“Connectivity to the airport from the north, west and south is a critical enabling factor in the future development of the airport as an export and service hub.
“Equally, access to the Cairns Port from the north and west and the link between the Cairns Port and the airport is constrained by the need to travel directly through the city.”
Advance Cairns said that the current road configuration faced the following issues:
• The National Highway does not connect with the principal regional export hub (the Cairns Airport) with our southern access and the Cairns Port;
• The National Highway does not connect with the principal northern freight route into Cairns (airport, port and to the Bruce Highway) from the region’s agriculture producing areas (Atherton Tablelands, Cape York Peninsula and Mossman);
• Significant commuter congestion issues on the Captain Cook Highway and along the Western Arterial leading from the north and James Cook University into the city.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Mr Entsch said he had been asked to hold off on pushing the project will the groups worked on their final proposal, which will then be raised with the Queensland government.
“It will be the state that is responsible for the planning and construction.
“Once it gets the state tick-off we can put in an application to extend the National Highway designation at which point the Federal Government becomes responsible for 80 per cent of the cost of upgrades.
“I’ll be very happy to take the plan to our Infrastructure Minister as soon as it’s ready.”
However, when contacted by TropicNow, Advance Cairns CEO Kevin Byrne said he didn’t know when or if the proposal would be submitted or how much a ring road would cost, even though he claimed “we’ve done all the work for it”.
TropicNow is awaiting further comment from Mr Byrne and Mayor Bob Manning.