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15 December, 2020

Walkerston bypass access 'an accident waiting to happen'

The State Government’s DTMR is building the Walkerston Bypass to connect Peak Downs Highway west of Walkerston to the Mackay Ring Road near Paget.

Walkerston bypass

CANEGROWERS Mackay Chairman Kevin Borg said today that the decision by the State Government’s Department of Transport and Main Roads to require large cane farming vehicles to use a staggered T intersection to traverse the Walkerston bypass in both directions was “an accident waiting to happen”.

The State Government’s DTMR is building the Walkerston Bypass to connect Peak Downs Highway west of Walkerston to the Mackay Ring Road near Paget.

Mr Borg said that discussions with DTMR by CANEGROWERS in support of affected growers had found the Department was wedded to constructing an intersection on the Walkerston Bypass next year which would require heavy farm vehicles to cross the Bypass to reach farms.

“A safer solution would be to separate the traffic by constructing a simple overpass for cars, enabling farm vehicles to go under the road,” Mr Borg said. “This is what we are asking DTMR to agree to. An underpass would enable farm vehicles to continue to use existing Stockroute and Hansen Roads at Bakers Creek without need for them to be closed, as is the current plan.”

Mr Borg said an independent investigation of the DTMR’s road design, by consulting engineers on behalf of affected growers, had shown that DTMR had failed to take into full consideration the increased volume of farm traffic which occurs every year during the sugarcane harvesting season (June – December).

“Under DTMR’s plan, traffic consisting of large, slow moving cane farm vehicles and machinery, and mill mud and dunder trucks, will cross over the Walkerston Bypass Road during morning and afternoon peak periods in both directions. Under DTMR’s design, these slow moving, heavy vehicles will need to traverse the highway using a staggered T intersection to enable farmers to undertake their normal farming operations. These farm vehicles will be travelling at around 40 km per hour to negotiate the crossing on the Bypass. Meanwhile, the rest of the general traffic will be travelling at speeds of about 80 km/hr.

“Rather than move smoothly and efficiently by using an underpass, the farm vehicles will be required to: turn left onto the highway, move over to the right-hand lane in front of traffic, turn right, in front of traffic coming from the opposite direction, move over to the left hand lane in front of traffic, and to exit the highway.

“In the six-month crushing period alone, an estimated 220 trips per day (22 vehicles per hour) will use the intersection to cross the bypass, significantly adding to existing traffic volumes during peak periods, slowing traffic considerably and increasing the risk of road accidents significantly. In addition, the farm vehicles will be delivering harvested cane to sidings during the crushing season so that they will frequently be fully loaded with cane, further slowing their operation and increasing the hazard for the motorist.”

Mr Borg said the problem would not only exist during the crushing season since normal farming operations during the remaining months of the year would require the movement of other farm equipment across the highway including irrigation hard hoses, high rise spray tractors, cane and soybean planters, wheel rakes, rippers, offsets, fertiliser boxes and agricultural chemical applicators.

He said that discussions with the DTMR over the past year had proved fruitless with DTMR arguing that it did not have the budget to put in an overpass. This is despite the fact that independent road safety reports* have demonstrated the increased safety hazard involved in using staggered crossings on major roads carrying significant traffic.

“DTMR’s short sighted compromise on community safety in the Mackay region is outrageous,” Mr Borg said. “Their decision to construct a staggered crossing not only increases the risk of road accidents for motorists but defeats the purpose of the Walkerston Bypass road itself in improving the efficient movement of traffic. Ultimately, this will cost taxpayers a lot more when an outraged public demands that the problem be fixed after the inevitable near misses, accidents and, God forbid, fatalities.”

“The DTMR’s lack of concern about the safety of motorists as a priority in building the Bypass is very worrying,” Mr Borg said.

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