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Plans remain on hold for more lanes along 45km of highway

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The state government says more lanes will be needed along two stretches of the Bruce Highway on the Sunshine Coast but can’t say when they will be added or how much they will cost.

Initial planning for a 38km section from Steve Irwin Way (exit 163) to Caloundra Road and for a 7.5km section from the Sunshine Motorway to Maroochydore Road was completed in 2018.

But not much has happened in the six years since, while traffic has swarmed in one of the country’s fastest-growing regions.

A Department of Transport and Main Roads spokesperson essentially said the two segments were down the pecking order of priorities.

“Preliminary planning confirmed additional lanes (from two lanes to at least three lanes) will be needed in the long term,” they said.

“Preliminary planning will be used to inform detailed planning, design and construction of these upgrades in the future.

Lane additions to the section between Caloundra Road and Steve Irwin Way (exit 163) are still on hold. Picture: Shutterstock

“Timeframes for more detailed planning will depend on future funding commitments and competing statewide priorities.

“Project webpages will be published in the future when more detailed planning is undertaken and following progress on upgrades to higher-priority highway sections.

“TMR will keep the community informed as the projects are allocated funding to progress more detailed planning, design and construction.”

Despite the lack of movement on the two sections of highway, the TMR spokesperson said the north coast route was important and highlighted key works there during the past few years.

“The Bruce Highway between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast is a key priority, with several major upgrades planned, under construction or recently completed to improve safety, ease congestion and cater for future growth,” they said.

Related story: Interactive aerial images show how Coast roads have changed

The 5.5km section of highway between Caloundra Road and the Sunshine Motorway had a $932 million upgrade in 2021. It provided six lanes and Australia’s first diverging diamond interchange.

The $301.25 million Maroochydore Road and Mons Road Interchanges project built a new four-lane eastbound bridge over the Bruce Highway from Nambour Connection Road to Maroochydore Road last year, with future highway widening considered, and new service roads separated local and highway traffic.

The two stretches of highway on the backburner. Picture: Google Maps

The $662.5 million upgrade from Caboolture-Bribie Island Road to Steve Irwin Way (Exit 163) was completed this year. The project widened the 11km stretch from four to six lanes.

Construction is also progressing for the $105 million Pine River to Caloundra Road Smart Motorways (Stage 2) project, which is delivering technology improvements along a 60km section of the highway.

“The technologies allow TMR to optimise network capacity and performance by proactively managing speed limits to align with road conditions and manage incidents on the network,” the spokesperson said.

“A key feature of the project is the installation of ramp signals at five interchanges to help reduce peak-hour congestion and provide safer merging conditions for motorists entering the Bruce Highway.”

There have been some upgrades to the highway and its connections on the Sunshine Coast. This interchange, connecting Maroochydore and Nambour, was revamped last year. Picture: Nearmap

TMR is also planning for upgrades between Brisbane and Caboolture.

The spokesperson said the state government believed “a multi-modal transport solution” would take the strain off the highway on the Sunshine Coast, which is expected to be home to more than 500,000 people by 2041, with more than 800,000 additional daily trips.

They highlighted the Southern Sunshine Coast Public Transport Strategy, which includes plans for an upgraded north coast rail line, a direct rail line to the coast and high-frequency buses. Those projects have partial funding commitments from levels of government.

“With the Sunshine Coast’s car ownership rates being among the highest in Australia, the strategy details how a range of public transport projects will provide new travel options, as well as provide improved links to Brisbane and the broader network,” they said.

Stage 1 of the direct rail line, which has a $2.75 billion commitment from the state government, is expected to make a rail trip from Caloundra to Brisbane at least 46 minutes faster than a car in peak periods.

Federal Member for Fisher Andrew Wallace, of the LNP, called on the state and federal Labor governments to contribute more funding towards the highway and other transport projects in the region.

“Sunshine Coast residents and businesses are facing a critical juncture,” he said.

“The Bruce Highway, a vital artery for the region, faces a significant funding shortfall due to the federal government’s decision to reduce its contribution from 80 per cent to 50 per cent.”

traffic congestion sunshine coast news
Drivers on the highway are used to traffic jams. Picture: Shutterstock. Picture: Shutterstock.

He also called on governments to renew commitments towards the essentially abandoned Mooloolah River Interchange Upgrade.

“With the release of the Federal Budget just days away, the need for decisive action is paramount,” he said.

“The Sunshine Coast stands on the brink of an infrastructure crisis. We cannot afford further delays, and our community will not tolerate road and rail gridlock any longer.”

The federal government announced cuts to several projects around the country, including on the Sunshine Coast, last year after an infrastructure review revealed a clogged pipeline of projects. Minister Catherine King essentially said several projects did not represent value for money.

The aerial imagery in this story is from Australian location intelligence company Nearmap. The company provides government organisations, architectural, construction and engineering firms, and other companies with easy, instant access to high-resolution aerial imagery, city-scale 3D content, artificial intelligence data sets, and geospatial tools to assist with urban planning, monitoring and development projects in Australia, New Zealand and North America.

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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