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Scores of properties acquired for huge interchange project that is only partially funded

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More than 130 properties have been bought by the state government, and more could be acquired, to make way for a massive interchange upgrade that is yet to be fully guaranteed.

The properties, around Mooloolaba and Mountain Creek, were resumed ahead of the planned Sunshine Motorway-Mooloolah River Interchange Upgrade.

Design work for the upgrade is underway and early works for Stage 1 are set to start in coming weeks.

But Stage 1 is the only stage with funding, from state and federal governments. The federal government has vowed to review infrastructure projects, leaving the entire upgrade in some doubt.

Federal Member for Fisher Andrew Wallace said it was vital the project was completed, especially after properties were acquired.

“The idea that they would cut funding for this crucial project – for which hundreds of Sunshine Coast locals have been forced out of their homes – is absurd,” he said.

State Member for Maroochydore Fiona Simpson called on the State Labor Government to fight for the project.

“I’m calling on the Premier to pick up the phone and call the PM,” she said.

“She must stand up for Queensland and ensure the Mooloolah River Interchange Upgrade goes ahead.”

Looking north along the proposed upgrade.

A spokesperson for the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads said the upgrade was planned and it would be crucial for commuters in the region.

“The MRI Upgrade is necessary to deliver a safe, efficient and effective transport network that meets the current and future transport needs of the Sunshine Coast,” they said.

“It will address safety and congestion issues that are forecast to increase due to regional population growth and development.”

The upgrade is set to provide new north-south connectivity between Maroochydore, Birtinya, Caloundra and southern growth areas, and pave the way for future projects.

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“It is the key to unlocking significant road and rail projects on the Sunshine Coast and is the trigger for major infrastructure transformation in the region,” the spokesperson said.

“This includes the Direct Sunshine Coast (DSC) Rail Line, Kawana Way (MRI to Kawana Way Link Road), the Buderim-Mooloolaba interchange to Maroochy Boulevard, Sunshine Coast Public Transport and Draft Southern Sunshine Coast Public Transport Strategy projects.”

One-hundred-and-thirty-two properties have been purchased by the state government, ahead of the planned upgrade.

“Property resumptions are a sensitive but necessary part of building new infrastructure. We approach each case with the utmost compassion,” the spokesperson said.

“We have been acquiring properties under our Early Acquisition Policy since planning began for the Sunshine Motorway-Mooloolah River Interchange Upgrade project in 2007.”

Some of the plans for the MRI Upgrade.

And there could be more to come.

“Any potential additional resumptions for future stages will be determined as design work progresses,” the spokesperson said.

Stage 1 of the upgrade, worth $320 million, is funded on a 50-50 basis by the federal and state governments.

Early works, to start within weeks, will “make the site construction ready”.

It will include demolitions, land preparation, relocations for electricity, water and telecommunications, and settlement of soft soil.

Stage 1 itself will include a new road overpass to provide a direct connection from Nicklin Way to Brisbane Road at Mooloolaba, and a new local road connection between Karawatha Drive at Mountain Creek and Brisbane Road at Mooloolaba.

“These local road connections will separate local traffic from high-speed motorway traffic and improve safety by reducing traffic weaving, a well-known issue at this interchange,” the spokesperson said.

“Stage 1 works must be delivered first to enable the construction of the project’s future stages.

“The new connections will move local traffic away from the area and minimise impacts and inconvenience to road users and the broader network during future stages.”

Looking north along Nicklin Way.

Future stages are set to include a new crossing of the Mooloolah River connecting the Sunshine Motorway to Kawana Way; the Mooloolah River Interchange, with connections to the Sunshine Motorway to the west and north, Nicklin Way to the south-east and Kawana Way to the south; an upgrade of the Sunshine Motorway from two to four lanes between the existing Kawana Way Interchange and the Mooloolah River Interchange; a direct, safe and efficient connection for the Sunshine Motorway, north to west; and an additional northbound lane on the Sunshine Motorway between the Mooloolah River Interchange and the Buderim-Mooloolaba interchange.

But funding is required to progress future stages to construction.

The TMR spokesperson said construction timeframes for all stages of the upgrade project would be determined as part of the design process.

The spokesperson also said significant talks had been held with locals about the upgrade.

“Extensive community consultation has been undertaken as part of the MRI Upgrade project,” they said.

“We will continue to update the community and stakeholders as the project progresses.”

A Federal Government Department of Infrastructure spokesperson confirmed a commitment to Stage 1 and said it was “looking at” projects that had not started in earnest.

“The 2023-24 Federal Budget maintained the Australian Government’s $160 million commitment toward the $320 million Mooloolah River Interchange Upgrade (Stage 1).”

“The Australian Government is working with the states and territories, including Queensland, on the 90-day review of the Infrastructure Investment Program, which is looking at projects not currently under construction and not election commitments of the Government.

“The Australian Government is committed to working co-operatively on shared infrastructure priorities.”

Sunshine Coast News was awaiting further comment from the state government about its commitment to future stages and why properties were acquired despite no guaranteed funding for future stages.

More information can be found at Mooloolah River Interchange. 

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