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Proposal for motorway upgrade pushed down list of priorities

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Proper planning for a four-lane section of the Sunshine Motorway is likely to start two years later than anticipated.

A business case phase for a proposed upgrade of the 11km stretch of road from Pacific Paradise to Coolum Beach was expected to get under way in mid-2024.

But a spokesperson for the Department of Transport and Main Roads told Sunshine Coast News that it won’t happen until late-2026.

“Funding for the business case has been deferred in the new Queensland Transport and Roads Investment Program,” they said.

“This is to allow higher-priority projects to progress.”

The section of road accommodates about 30,000 vehicles a day, which is expected to increase to about 39,000 vehicles a day by 2041.

The Yandina-Coolum Road intersection could undergo a significant transformation. Picture: TMR

There are plans for it to be duplicated from two to four lanes “to help improve safety, connectivity and efficiency”.

There could also be a grade-separated interchange at Yandina-Coolum Road, an interchange at West Coolum Road and an active transport pathway.

A preliminary evaluation is ongoing but the delayed business case will be most important as it investigates the proposal in more detail to evaluate the design, construction costs and construction staging.

It will reveal whether the proposal is worth it and/or needs changes.

The TMR spokesperson said design and construction “will depend on the availability of funding and the prioritisation of competing infrastructure projects across Queensland”.

The state MP for Ninderry, Dan Purdie, of the LNP, said the deferral of funding for the business case phase and, essentially, the delay of the project was disheartening.

“This is a disappointing outcome for my community and the Sunshine Coast as the motorway duplication is key to unlocking congestion and improving safety for the tens of thousands of motorists who use on it on a daily basis,” he said.

“The duplication of the motorway was first announced by the then state Labor government in 2008.

The stretch of motorway between Pacific Paradise and Coolum Beach is in line to be upgraded.

“Since then, the population of the Sunshine Coast has more than doubled, and yet no work had been done to progress it.

“It’s really disappointing our progress is being stalled because the state government has run out of money.”

Mr Purdie said the route was a crucial link.

“The motorway is the key transport route for the Sunshine Coast,” he said.

“It’s a key connector to the Sunshine Coast Airport and provides direct access to one of the biggest industrial estates on the Coast (the Coolum Eco Industrial Park).

“It needs to be fit for purpose to cater for our growing population and, with the 2032 Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games just around the corner, now is the time to be investing in generational infrastructure.”

Mr Purdie said the state government “has the wrong priorities when it comes to the Sunshine Coast” and he said the business case phase needed to be completed as soon as possible, to ensure works could start as soon as possible.

“In the current economic climate, the duplication of the motorway will be a very costly project that would need to be staged over multiple years,” he said.

Plans for the Coolum-Yandina interchange and surrounds.

“The business case is the key to longer-term decisions regarding the costs and construction timeframes that we need in order to progress it.”

A community consultation period early last year included feedback from thousands of people.

A summary showed there was strong support for four lanes and for grade separation at the Yandina-Coolum Road interchange, including a north-south overpass. There was also strong support for active transport features.

A TMR spokesperson last year told SCN that an upgraded section of motorway would “improve safety, connectivity, capacity and efficiency”.

Features could include increased motorway capacity from two to four lanes; improvements to active transport infrastructure; a new interchange at Yandina-Coolum Road; a potential future interchange at West Coolum Road; the inclusion of Smart Motorway technologies; improved flood immunity; and provisions for fauna fencing.

A separate project to replace the roundabout at Yandina-Coolum Road, South Coolum Road and School Road, with a signalised intersection, started last month.

The new signalised intersection is set to help ease congestion and traffic queuing near Coolum State School and improve safety for road users including pedestrians.

That project is expected to take about four months to complete, weather and construction conditions permitting.

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