”It should have been done 20 years ago”: Lawrie St Upgrade
CALLS from frustrated residents to fix Gracemere's traffic congestion problem have reintensified following news of construction about to commence on the Capricorn Highway duplication to Rockhampton.
Originally included in the early development of the $75 million highway duplication project, plans to build a new bridge and duplicate busy Lawrie St were shelved due to budget constraints.
It is estimated that 21,000 vehicles travel on Lawrie St daily.
Angry residents took to social media yesterday saying this vital piece in Gracemere's road infrastructure puzzle was needed for the benefits of the highway upgrade to be fully realised.
Kylie Jorgensen said the bottle neck issue wasn't the Capricorn Highway.
"The big issue is the main street in Gracemere gets backed up so bad," Ms Jorgensen said.
"It's good that it's being done finally as it should have been done 20 years ago but (we) need to look at the bigger picture."
Janita Wass said the duplication still didn't fix how to get out of Gracemere.
"Lucky we have courteous drivers and everyone works in together to let people into the line of traffic in Lawrie Street," Ms Wass said.
Gracemere Hardware store manager Andrew Hope told The Morning Bulletin in December that any planned improvements should go as far as Ranger St.
Having lived in the area for 18 years, he said it got busy from 7am most mornings and again on Thursday and Friday afternoons when people were looking to get a head start on the weekend.
Going into this year's federal election, Labor's candidate for Flynn Zac Beers promised $20 million towards upgrading the road infrastructure - a promise that wasn't mirrored by eventual winner, Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd.
Rockhampton Region mayor Margaret Strelow and Rockhampton MP Barry O'Rourke have called on Mr O'Dowd to go in to bat for Gracemere on the issue.
Cr Strelow said the long suffering people of Gracemere had struggled with the inadequate access at peak hours and it was a logical extension to go back and "free up" congestion plagued Lawrie St.
"Lawrie St is a key feeder to the highway and is part of the network critical for Gracemere to grow," Cr Strelow said
"This is the second part of the Capricorn Highway duplication. This is critical to that first duplication doing its job in allowing traffic to flow freely between Rockhampton and Gracemere."
Mr O'Rourke said anyone who drives through town knows widening the road to fix the bottleneck at Lawrie Street has to be a priority.
He was told by Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey's office that it could be over $35 million to do the Lawrie Street works, including building a new bridge over the rail line.
"Upgrading that section was looked at during early phases of the tender process for the Capricorn Highway upgrade.
"Unfortunately, it wasn't included in the final project scope agreed on and funded by Federal and State governments, which I think was a mistake."
"I worked with Federal Labor's candidate Zac Beers to get a $20 million Federal commitment towards fixing Lawrie Street before the last election."
Mr O'Rourke said Mr O'Dowd and the Federal LNP didn't think it was worth fixing during the campaign and he'd remained silent on it when he should be fighting for it in Canberra.
Mr O'Dowd acknowledged congestion was a growing problem but he denied ever being approached by Cr Strelow or by either of the State Government members representing Gracemere regarding this road.
He said it would make sense to duplicate and this is why the people of Gracemere need to start pressuring the local council and their state members.
"The federal government has financed Gracemere-Rockhampton Road and the Rockhampton Ringroad.
"It is time the local council and state members for Gracemere listened to their constituents and address the problem."
Cr Strelow said they raised the issue with the Federal election candidates during this year's election "including with Ken O'Dowd. Twice."
"That aside, it's not an issue council can 'fix' as Lawrie Street is a state-controlled road," she said.
"We continue to stand ready to work with all levels of government on a solution."
A spokesperson from Mr O'Dowds' office added to their comments on the Lawrie St issue on Thursday.
"Our office has never seen a formal submission or costings for Lawrie Street and nor do we expect to as this road is a State responsibility," the spokesperson said.
"Prior to the last election we requested wish lists from all councils in our electorate. The RRC submitted a wishlist to our office in March of which Lawrie Street was mentioned.
"All wishlist projects that are on the Federal Radar (Federal Responsibility) must have attached relevant costings and detailed plans."