Bligh unveils roads program, as finances crumble


Bligh Government commits multi-billion dollar road infrastructure program, despite Queensland's finances plunging into deficit

By Brad Gardner | June 16, 2009

The Bligh Government has committed to delivering a multi-billion dollar road infrastructure program despite Queensland’s finances plunging into deficit.

Unveiling the Budget today, Treasurer Andrew Fraser announced $7.3 billion would be spent on transport and roads, with $780 million going to the Ipswich Motorway and $236 million to be invested in the Bruce Highway between Cooroy and Curra.

Another $47.3 million will be spent on the Townsville Port Access Road, while public transport will receive almost $1 billion for the Gold Coast rapid transit system, new trains and rail infrastructure upgrades.

Funding for rest areas from speeding offences revenue will increase fourfold, from $1 million this financial year to $4 million.

"During next financial year, $3.53 billion will be spent providing road improvements and other initiatives across Queensland, as part of our continuing investment in infrastructure," Minister for Main Roads Craig Wallace says.

The news comes as the Government faces a rise in debt levels as the Budget spirals into deficit.

Following a $574 million deficit this year, Fraser says Queensland will be hit with a $1.9 billion deficit in 2009-10, increasing to $3.4 billion the following year and peaking at $4 billion in 2011-12.

But while the Budget is not expected to return to surplus for eight years, Fraser says the Government must continue to bankroll infrastructure programs to boost employment and productivity.

All up, $3.048 billion will be allocated to Main Roads’ capital works program, while the Federal Government will provide $43 million in Black Spot funding.

The Government will also fund a $5.8 million upgrade of the New England Highway to widen and seal the stretch of road between Munro Road and Pioneer Road.

Another $4 million will be spent widening and sealing the Carnarvon Highway.

"The 2009-10 Budget reflects a level of funding that will improve safety and transport efficiency for Queensland motorists," Wallace says.

However, the Government has forged ahead with its plan to scrap the fuel subsidy, claiming Queensland can no longer afford the 8.35 cents a litre discount.

From July 1, fuel prices will increase by 9.2 percent, coinciding with a jump in registration fees and a 0.7 cent cut to the fuel tax credit.

Unless it was scrapped, the Government forecasted the subsidy would cost $554 million next financial year, reaching $630 million in 2012-13.

Industry groups, however, have criticised the move, arguing there will be little benefit because business costs and consumer goods will rise.

"The Queensland fuel subsidy has always permitted the road transport industry to pass on considerable savings to consumers and businesses in Queensland through reduced freight charges," NatRoad President Rob McIntosh says.

Truck drivers will also notice an increase in on-road enforcement next financial year, with the Budget allocating $47 million to road safety initiatives.

As part of the expenditure, Fraser says there will be more speed and red light cameras and an increase in traffic officers.


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