COMMENT: Bruce Hwy upgrade will deliver economic benefit
THE Christmas and New Year period has been yet another reminder that the Bruce Hwy between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast is in dire need of upgrading.
The front page headline in the Sunshine Coast Daily said it all.
Some of us still remember the old highway between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, taking a pit-stop at the Rustic Cabin before either turning off to Kings Beach or continuing to beaches further north, or to Nambour and sugar cane country.
The new four-lane route for the Bruce Hwy, first to Caloundra Rd and then to Maroochydore Rd in the late 1970s and 1980s, made life a lot easier. But the campaign to widen the highway to six lanes has been building ever since.
I support the Boost the Bruce campaign to six-lane the Bruce Hwy between Brisbane and the Sunshine Mwy.
Should the Bruce Highway be expanded to six lanes?
This poll ended on 08 February 2016.
Yes - it's obviously not coping now and extra lanes will ease congestion.
No - how long will we keep adding lanes? We need a better train service so people can commute between the Coast and Brisbane.
Why not both? We need more lanes on the Bruce and a better train service!
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
Frankly, I would like to see eight lanes, and why stop at the Sunshine Mwy? Let's run eight to the Nambour Connection Rd/Maroochydore Rd intersection and then six lanes up to Cooroy. But one thing at a time.
When it comes to six-laning between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, there should be a unity-ticket across the region: one that unites business, community and government, with the latter involving politicians of all stripes and all three tiers of government.
This is the single largest and most important piece of transport infrastructure for the region and upgrading it won't be cheap.
Six-laning between the Caloundra turn-off and the Sunshine Mwy, which Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss, Member for Fisher Mal Brough and I announced ahead of the last federal election, is alone costing $1.1 billion.
Regardless of the price tag, however, we must be prepared to fight for it. In doing so though, we need to be innovative in how we prosecute the case.
Upgrading the highway is not just about fixing the problems of congestion, safety and flooding. This conventional rationale is right, but it's limiting and it weakens our claim to funding because the needs of other regions along the 1700km highway are often greater than ours when judged against such criteria.
I believe the core premise for upgrading the highway between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast lies in the productive capacity that it will unleash.
That is, six-laning the Bruce Hwy is an enabler - a prerequisite if you like - to building a new type of economy on the Sunshine Coast; a modern economy that is more open, diverse and entrepreneurial; one that is far more integrated in trade and investment with other parts of Australia; a smart, highly sophisticated and well connected economy that is growing at a pace of knots compared to other regions; one whose potential is being slowly unlocked and the state of Queensland and Australia as a whole will be richer for it.
This positive economic vision is no pipe dream.
It's where we're going as a region and an upgraded Bruce Hwy is a critical part of the overall jigsaw puzzle.
From an economic perspective, the Bruce Hwy is not a discrete stand-alone piece of infrastructure but inextricably linked to the new CBD in Maroochydore, a rejuvenated Nambour, an international airport at Marcoola and a new city in Caloundra South. It's part of an integrated regional transport system that will include improved air, new heavy rail, new light rail, new and improved roads, and better public transport for every community across the Sunshine Coast.
Yes an upgraded Bruce Hwy will fix problems and yes it will come at a hefty cost.
But it will also create new opportunities, generate new income and contribute enormously to the longer-term vision of the Sunshine Coast and thus to the economies of Queensland and Australia.
I'm excited. Let's Boost the Bruce!
*Ted O'Brien is the LNP candidate for the Federal seat of Fairfax