O'Brien makes Bruce Hwy upgrade his personal mission
WIDE Bay MP Llew O'Brien has pledged to fight for a four-lane Bruce Highway between Gympie and Maryborough.
Mr O'Brien has previously lamented how the national highway has four lanes from Melbourne to Gympie, but it becomes one of the state's most deadliest stretches of road in his electorate.
The former policeman, who has witnessed the carnage first-hand, says the Bruce Highway's upgrade from a two- to four-lane road is his absolute priority.
"For someone who has a key role in investigating (the tragedy) in the past, I have a key role in preventing future (incidents)," Mr O'Brien said. "It is an issue that is personal to me."
Not only will it increase road safety, but Mr O'Brien believes Maryborough could be the biggest winner of the current upgrades. He has campaigned for road safety since he replaced retired Warren Truss as Wide Bay's representative in parliament last year.
The Bruce Highway has already received about $914 million in three of the four projects that make up the Cooroy to Curra upgrade.
A further $52 million has gone towards planning and design work on Section D - the largest part of the project that could cost up to $1 billion to bypass Gympie. That's when Mr O'Brien expects Maryborough to be the major beneficiary.
"My view is that when Section D is built, Maryborough will be the biggest winner," he said.
Mr O'Brien, who said he was encouraged by Queensland Labor's $1bn plan to "Future-proof the Bruce" which included a commitment to complete Section D, believes easier transportation to Brisbane and reduced travel time would make the Heritage City even more appealing to bigger businesses, which could lead to "substantial growth" in the region.
Federal Infrastructure and Transport minister Darren Chester said the Federal Government's commitment to upgrading the highway is "unquestioned", with $6.7bn invested in the Bruce Highway Upgrade Program.
Mr Chester said the detailed design work for Section D is expected to be completed in early 2018. Only then, once costs are determined, can there be decisions made about future funding.
"Improving safety on the Bruce Highway is a major driver for the Bruce Highway Upgrade Program and the Australian Government will continue to work with the Queensland Government to agree future priorities for investment," Mr Chester said.
For Mr O'Brien, his work will not stop when Section D is fully funded and completed. Instead, he has pledged to fight for a four-lane highway as "far north as he possibly can".
Mr O'Brien was reluctant to estimate a date of completion for Section D, and a possible extension to Maryborough, as it would "not be genuine".
He did commit to continue fighting for more funds for the major arterial highway's upgrade between Gympie and Maryborough, on which nine people were killed between 2001 and 2016.
"When the four lane highway ends is when the tragedy starts," Mr O'Brien said. "It's my job to get the money to make it happen."