Third bridge project set to boost CQ region with 780 jobs
ROCKHAMPTON'S ring road project promises to be the biggest infrastructure project the region has seen in a generation, but local residents like Zane Gray are concerned.
Mr Gray was among the 70 visitors to attend yesterday's Third Bridge public forum at the Red Lion to hear more about the billion dollar project promising to deliver 780 jobs.
Planned to provide a western link of the Bruce Highway, from the Yeppen Roundabout along the western side of the airport to a third bridge crossing before connecting with the Bruce Highway at Parkhurst, the 22km Rockhampton ring road was estimated to be complete by 2023.
Hosted by the LNP's Capricornia MP Michelle Landry, Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd, Minister for Northern Australia Senator Matt Canavan, and Assistant Minister for Transport and Roads Scott Buchholz, the forum provided an opportunity for them to ask questions, offer suggestions, raise concerns and have their say about the bridge and bypass.
During the forum, Rockhampton grandfather Mr Gray, 51, stood up to talk about his Pink Lily property he built on four acres back in 2008.
After the flood in 2011, he found out about the plan to build a road bypassing Rockhampton and has spent the last seven years since worrying about what would happen to his property.
Mr Gray found a map on the internet four years ago showing the proposed corridor slicing through his property and the topic has dominated his household's conversations ever since.
He accused the government agencies of keeping his family "in the dark”, waiting in a "state of limbo” to see whether Transport and Main Roads would compulsorily acquire his entire properly or just a portion.
"I never want to move, it's where I built to live the rest of my life, but we know that's not going to happen any more,” Mr Gray said.
"They won't tell me if they want to take the whole lot or I'm going to be living right on top of a highway.”
Another Pink Lily resident, Sharon Diener, also aired her concerns, fearing that with an elevated highway, that more water would be displaced, flooding her property on Pink Lily Rd.
She hoped that either stilts or culverts or some other strategy would be employed to ensure nearby properties weren't adversely affected by flood waters.
This lack of clarity for residents who will be affected by the new road and rail corridor was addressed by the LNP politicians, led by Senator Canavan during the forum.
Senator Canavan said it was up to the Queensland Government to deliver the project, with Transport and Main Roads completing the gazetting process a month ago.
"I know there has been uncertainty until they got up to this stage but they've done that now,” he said.
With the list of properties affected by the road and rail corridor finalised, the acquisition process was expected to speed up, but no timeline was offered about when this would be complete.
In 2013, $65 million was set aside as an early allocation specifically for planning and acquiring properties of those hardship cases but the senator revealed that they had in excess of $100 million up their sleeve to complete the acquisition process.
"I was assured by TMR that those who want to sell early now have that ability thanks to that commitment,” he said.
He said due to cost and flood water constraints, the road would not be built to withstand a one in 100-year flooding event and divert flood waters.
Instead it would be a "low road”, exerting minimal influence on the flow of flood waters and closed during major flooding events.
During these circumstances, traffic would revert back to the flood-proofed roads currently servicing the city.
Senator Canavan also confirmed that the rail component of the project was not funded for construction, saying he expected it would not be realised for many years yet.
Rockhampton Regional mayor Margaret Strelow shared during the forum that when the ring road project was in its infancy, that she was initially opposed to it.
But after seeing a chart showing how the average speed of the highway traffic came to a grinding halt in the Rockhampton region, she could suddenly see the merit.
From the Yeppen Roundabout, Cr Strelow said motorists could "smell the coffee and see the motels” and would swing into the city for a welcome break from driving.
With the road proposed to be built on the flood plain, she said council would not approve highway-side projects in these areas, keeping the incentive for visitors to take advantage of Rockhampton's offerings.
Reflecting on the forum to gathered media, Ms Landry said she was pleased with the turnout and positive feedback from the forum attendees.
"This is not about isolating Rockhampton, this is about having more access off that road once it's built,” she said.
"The bulk of feedback we receive from businesses is that they think it's a great idea and its just on the outskirts of Rockhampton so it's not as if people are going to avoid here.”
The number of entry points into Rockhampton were expected to grow from two to five, with various entry points being considered near Fairy Bower, Ridgelands and Parkhurst.
"It's about having the third bridge, which is going to be fantastic in the region, it's going to stop congestion in town and make things safer, get those big road trains out of town,” she said.
She said a third bridge would take pressure off the two existing bridges, which currently accommodate more than 70,000 vehicles per day and cut down on travel times.