The Federal Opposition has unveiled its alternative ten-year plan to upgrade what is widely considered one of the most dangerous roads in Australia.

In a joint statement, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Warren Truss have pledged $6.7 billion towards an $8.5 billion program to upgrade the Bruce Highway in Queensland which would involve more than 70 construction and upgrade projects and which would be funded on an 80/20 basis under a federal/state agreement.

Stretching 1,500 kilometers along the Queensland coast from Brisbane to Cairns the Highway has long been the subject of intense political debate amid concern about the road’s safety.

In an analysis spanning 2005-2009 released last year, the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) said the Highway accounted for 61 percent of road deaths in Queensland and 17 percent of fatalities nation-wide.

In May, the Federal Government unveiled a $4.1 billion plan to upgrade the road which was welcomed by the AAA but rejected by the Queensland government as inadequate.

The Coalition’s plan involves spending $2.1 billion of federal money over the first four years followed by $4.6 billion thereon after, with the money to come from a road funding program negotiated with the states referred to as AusLink 3 by the coalition and Nation Building 2 by the government.

Key projects in the first four years include:

  • Completion of Section A and commencement of Section C of the 61 kilometre realignment and upgrade between Cooroy and Curra ($885 million)
  • A $246 million upgrade around the Yeppen Floodplain
  • $250 million to commence Stage 1 and plan for Stage 2 of upgrades between Caloundra Road and the Sunshine Motorway ($250m)
  • $205 million for part construction of Stage 1 of the Mackay Ring Road
  • $175 million for the Townsville Ring Road (Stage 4)
  • $122 million for the Caboolture to Caloundra Upgrade
  • Duplication from Vantassel Street to the Flinders Highway ($113m)
  • $53 million to upgrade the ‘Calliope Crossroads’ intersection with the Dawson Highway
  • A $57 million upgrade to Sandy Gully Bridge.

The Coalition says it will also undertake nine major projects which are not included in the government’s plan, including Section C of the Cooroy and Curra project (Traveston Road to Keefton Road – $808 million) and Stage 2 of the Caloundra Road to Sunshine Motorway project ($743 million).

In their statement, Abbott and Truss say the upgrade program is needed because of the condition of the road and its importance to the state’s economy.

“Queensland needs real action to fix the Bruce Highway and for that to start now” the statement reads, adding that the road is regularly cut off by flooding at 33 sites and subject to concerns about congestion as well as safety.

The plan has been welcomed as a ‘massive leap forward’ by Royal Automobile Club of Queensland spokesman Michael Roth but dismissed as ‘smoke and mirrors’ by federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese because the government would spend only $2.1 billion in four years.

“It’s fine to say we’ve got a 10-year plan and all the money’s in year nine and year ten and when we get a fourth term Abbott government we might get around to doing something” Albanese says.