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Interchange upgrade to improve connections but plans are 'deficient' for some commuters

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A $320m upgrade is set to revamp a congested and convoluted interchange but some commuters will still have to go the long way around to get to their destination.

Early works are underway for Stage 1 of the Mooloolah River Interchange Upgrade (MRIU), which is expected to help cater for a surging population.

The Department of Transport and Main Roads said it would include new roads, active transport provisions and a new signalised intersection that will create “a safe, efficient and effective network”.

But people travelling from Mooloolaba who intend on heading north along the Sunshine Motorway will still need to negotiate some back streets to get there.

Local resident Geoff Glanville said he was “astonished” to see plans for the project, first initiated in 2007, did not include a more convenient route.

“After all this time, the imminent final design plans must make better provision for Mooloolaba residents and visitors needing to head north,” he said.

“We are talking about drivers heading to the airport, Coolum, Peregian and Noosa.

“It’s unbelievable and unacceptable that the current plans are so severely deficient in this regard and more works is imperative.

“Construction has yet to start and already the interchange has proven to be not fit for purpose.”

A department spokesperson said it was impossible to provide a more efficient link to the northbound lanes of the motorway from Mooloolaba, without making a much more significant impact on surrounds.

“The project’s design needs to meet traffic and constructability demands, while also minimising vegetation clearing and environmental impacts,” they said.

“Provision of a direct northbound connection from Brisbane Road to the Sunshine Motorway would require a larger project footprint and result in further impacts to the environment and surrounding stakeholders.”

Mr Glanville said drivers from Mooloolaba would have to continue to tackle a series of intersections, roundabouts, traffic lights and back roads to get on to the motorway.

“Take the exit off Brisbane Road and head towards the Bruce Highway, then take an offramp to the roundabout at the junction of Bundilla Boulevard and Karawatha Drive, take the Karawatha Drive exit, drive under the Sunshine Motorway bridge until the next set of lights, then take a left turn onto the onramp to the Sunshine Motorway, (and) merge with the northbound lanes coming from the Bruce Highway.”

There’s an alternative but it’s not much better.

“Head to Buderim Mooloolaba Road and drive towards Buderim, take a right turn at the lights into Sugar Road, until arriving at the roundabout before Glen Kyle Drive, take the first exit, drive to the next roundabout and take the first exit onto Wises Road, drive until Wises Road intersects with Maroochy Boulevard, take a right turn at the lights, then immediately take the offramp to the left and then merge with northbound traffic onto the Sunshine Motorway,” Mr Glanville said.

The spokesperson said the route via Karawatha Drive would be the best option when Stage 1 is completed, and there would be “reduced weaving” on the motorway overpass.

The proposed route from Brisbane Road to northbound lanes on the Sunshine Motorway, in red dotted lines, is essentially the same as it is now.

The project is in its design phase, although some preparatory early works started in May.

Stage 1 of the project is set to deliver a new road overpass to provide a more direct and efficient connection from Nicklin Way to Brisbane Road at Mooloolaba; a new local road connection between Karawatha Drive at Mountain Creek and Brisbane Road at Mooloolaba; a new signalised intersection linking Brisbane Road with the new connection to Karawatha Drive; a new two-way Brisbane Road service road; and new active transport provisions for pedestrians and bike riders, connecting Mountain Creek and Mooloolaba.

“It will significantly improve safety by separating local traffic from high-speed motorway traffic and reducing traffic weaving, which is a well-known issue at the interchange,” the spokesperson said.

The Australian and Queensland governments have committed $320m on a 50:50 basis to deliver Stage 1.

More than 130 properties have been acquired to make way for the upgrade, and a dozen homeowners are bracing for resumptions at Parrearra, with the MRIU set to link with other proposed transport projects like Direct Rail Sunshine Coast, Sunshine Coast Public Transport, and the Kawana Motorway.

Further funding is yet to be guaranteed to progress future stages of the MRIU.

Do you have an opinion to share? Submit a Letter to the Editor at Sunshine Coast News via news@sunshinecoastnews.com.au. You must include your name and suburb.

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