I have spoken to many people in the area south of Cairns about the proposed highway upgrades for this side of town. The first stage will change the area around Ray Jones Drive and all who have seen the plan agree that it will be a great improvement on what currently exists. The part further south is where all the commentators begin to get unsure.
One concern is the need to remove existing dwellings to make room for the road system. This angers those living in the houses (fairly understandably) while simply confusing others. Why do we need to go that way? Is there not a better way? Well, I cannot accurately guess the entire process but am pretty sure it took several much more informed people than me to decide that this option was the best one. Feasability studies, draft after draft would have been performed and I don't doubt that this option was thrown out initially due to the severity of the action but had to be re-assessed as the only option. This will impact on the lives of many residents in our community and the fact that this was done without their approval must be acknowledged. It is not a good outcome for them and I sincerely hope they will be adequately compensated, both for the cost of replacing their homes and the grief they will go through while doing so.
Another frequent observation is that it is a 30 year plan and we need it NOW!! While this is probably true, we are quickly discovering that when things are rushed it is not the best outcome for anyone, with three tiers of Government everything is negotiated to death and anything of this scale, costing this much money, will take a while to complete.
The most common comment I hear though is the one that indicates a second road from Gordonvale, through the back and over Admiralty Island is the better option. This is actually not an option at all. The cost would be completely ridiculous, the bridge across alone would cost pretty close to what this entire project is costing. There is no need for a second road into town. Most areas approximately the size of Cairns have one arterial road which branches off in much the same way as the proposed plan. There is only one highway running all the way down the coast of Queensland and it has never been suggested that we have another running parallel to it. That would be ludicrous.
Currently, from my home in Bentley Park, I can travel all the way to the city, or even out to Smithfield, without going near the highway. While this alternate route will never be a thoroughfare in the way that highways are, if I hear on the radio there is an accident near Mt Sheridan Plaza, I can bypass it completely.
In any city, town or region throughout Australia, if there is an accident on any main road, traffic chaos ensues. What on earth makes us think we are any different, or should be? Reality states that on a good road, only bad drivers are the problem. Unfortunately there will always be poor drivers on our roads and the only cure is to ride a bike, if you are game.
The current system is dangerous as travelling along a major road at 80 klms per hour and having to stop suddenly due to red lights, over and over again, makes it very difficult to travel smoothly and makes it almost impossible for Learner or P plated drivers. Even after doing it almost daily for several years, I still see drivers turning in front of semi-trailers at the last moment, drivers running up the backsides of overly cautious drivers and drivers running through lights while they are turning red.
I, for one, am looking forward to travelling on a major highway with simple exits to each suburb and no traffic lights along the way. While I acknowledge that the final result is 30 years away, I am impressed with the fast approval once a plan was decided upon and the speed in which it has been funded with thanks to the efforts of Jim Turnour who recognised the need for this. Whether or not I still live here when it is finished, rest assured I will still be in the area and will drive it as often as I can.