'Bandaid solutions' can no longer sustain vital bridge

Queensland MP calls for immediate investment in ailing bridge that is costing trucking operators time and money

By Brad Gardner | August 26, 2011

"Bandaid solutions" can no longer sustain a key bridge on Queensland’s Kennedy Highway, according to an MP who says trucking operators are suffering due to the condition of the infrastructure.

Shane Knuth, who represents the Far North Queensland seat of Dalrymple, has called for immediate investment in the low-lying Nettle Creek Bridge before the region’s wet season begins.

Labelling the one-lane structure "substandard", Knuth says it is a constant source of problems for trucking operators using it during the wet season because of load restrictions, permit requirements and closures.

"Heavy vehicles travel across this bridge every 20 minutes. [The Department of Transport and] Main Roads is aware of the problem and last year weight restrictions were placed on heavy vehicles, which is a major inconvenience and massive expense to operators," he says.

"In March this year a hole in the bridge caused by severe flooding was patched up and a large timber girder is scheduled to be replaced before the 2011-12 wet season. These are bandaid solutions that result in long-term maintenance costs that will be higher than reconstruction."

Transport operators want the bridge flood-proofed, and Knuth has criticised Roads Minister Craig Wallace for not addressing the situation.

"This is a single-lane, low-lying bridge that looks like it dates back to the 1800s," he says.

"The transport industry, tourists and general travelling public should not be expected to tolerate this unacceptable and dangerous situation. Every year transport operators experience delays and restrictions which impact on local businesses waiting for food, freight and equipment."

Knuth says the bridge could have provided a connection between northern and southern Queensland when the Bruce Highway was blocked earlier this year when Cyclone Yasi struck.

The Cairns Post reported in April the region’s council had written to the Department of Transport and Main Roads requesting the Nettle Creek Bridge be replaced as soon as possible.

The council believes building a higher two-lane bridge will provide an alternative route for freight in and out of Cairns when poor weather cuts the Bruce Highway south of Innisfail.

Councillor Shaaron Linwood told the paper the council needs to keep reminding the department about the bridge because it "fades off their radar".

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