Thursday, 22 March 2012

Captain Cook Highway | should it be raised to the level of the bridges?

Repair wait looks long for Cairns businesses counting on flood-prone Captain Cook Highway

Melanie Petrinec
Thursday, March 22, 2012
© The Cairns Post

Inundated: The Captain Cook Highway has been tested by heavy rainfall many times, yet the wait looks to be a while before an upgrade.

Thomatis Creek Bridges stand flood free in a 1:5 year minor flood

As Cairns businesses tally up the cost of the Captain Cook Highway's extended closure earlier this week, the State Government has confirmed the flood-prone road is still near the bottom of its upgrades list.

Transport and Main Roads has identified other Far Northern roads as higher priorities, claiming the stretch between Cairns and Smithfield had been closed due to flooding for fewer than four days in the past five years. The cost of closures, such as Monday's 12-hour shutdown, to the economy are yet to be quantified, but statistics reveal a high proportion of northern beaches residents travelling south for work.

Economist Bill Cummings said it would be a "complex exercise" to analyse the costs, but with 60 per cent of employment opportunities in the area between the airport and Portsmith, absenteeism or late arrivals would be a problem."There's a lot of disruption of employment of people coming into work (from the northern beaches), which means a disruption of the workplace," he said.

Cairns Chamber of Commerce president Anthony Mirotsos said upgrades were needed to prevent further economic losses. "Why should we have to expect one or two days of the year when the whole city comes to a crashing halt?" he said. "It just makes the cost to your business higher and productivity less."

A TMR spokesperson said the department appreciated closures always had a "significant impact", but upgrades were not on its radar. "The bottom line is this area is simply less flood-prone than many other state roads in Queensland," the spokesperson said.

The department said upgrading the Peninsula and Burke Developmental roads, which can be closed for weeks at a time, were a higher priority. To allow crews to continue clearing debris, the highway will be closed at Buchan Point today to all traffic 8am-11am, open to one lane 11am-1pm, closed to all traffic 1pm-5pm and open to one lane from 5pm.
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My View.

 It was a political decision made by Russell Hinze as Minister for Main Roads in the late 70's to lower the flood immunity of the Cpt Cook Highway from the Main Roads Department recommended level of a 1:50 to a 1:5 following adjoining farmers protestations.

I believe as  sugar cane farming is not playing as a significant economic role as it did in the 70's, the Department of Main Roads should revisit its local priorities list and place the upgrading of the Cpt Cook Highway as a top priority for completion in the next 5 years..

Would be interested to read your views.

Ross Parisi

22nd March 2012

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