Kuranda Range Road

The Kuranda Range Road leads from Smithfield up the McAllister range to Kuranda. This section of road is one of the most scenic roads in Australia with glimpses of coast and ocean through World Heritage listed rainforest. For much of the road the trees overhang the road to form a green tunnel. The road is also a joy to drive due to its pleasant bends and angles and is a valuable tourism asset.

DMR (Department of Main Roads) wants to replace this about 12km road with a half to one billion dollar 4-Lane Highway which would take 10-20 years to build.

The History of the Road

The survey work for the road was carried out in 1939 and construction started in October 1940 with a TD18 dozer (75HP). It was the first road project in North Queensland using a bulldozer.

The road was estimated to cost about 100,000 Pounds for a single lane track. The use of dozers proved so successful that the road cost only 50,000 Pounds to build and ended up being dual lane.

The construction took about eighteen month and the road was opened in early 1942.

These road pioneers did such a wonderful job that not only did the road stand up to traffic for over 60 years but even today no better alignment could be found.

Those were the good days. Today the estimated cost of "upgrading" to four lanes is already at about 600 million dollars and the construction is expected to take 15 years (I bet both its going to take longer and cost at least double).

The Last Twenty Years

Over the last 20-25 years only one new overtaking lane was constructed just below the Avondale creek crossing. It was so poorly designed that hardly anyone uses it.

During this period three overtaking opportunities have been removed, most others have been shortened and line marking has been used to direct traffic into the overtaking lanes instead of the slow vehicle lanes.

Meanwhile several stretchs have been widened and axle load limits have been increased (DMR has refused to supply information on when and by how much).

This allows much heavier and longer trucks on the road for which it was never designed.

Should we be surprised that with this sort of mismanagement we now have a traffic problem? Or is it possible that there is some deliberation in DMR's actions?

The Present Situation

Due to DMR's mismanagement (whether deliberate or not) the traffic situation has deteriorated significantly.

Additionally heavier trucks do not just force everyone to drive as slow as they do, but they also cause significant damage to the road surface and possibly even trigger more landslides.

I do not remember frequent resurfacing being required over 20 years ago, before extra heavy trucks were allowed on the road. Maintenance was minimal as long as it was mainly light cars using the range road.

Maintenance would be minimal again as soon as we get heavy trucks of the range road as would the congestion problems.

So the heavy trucks are the real problem on the range road.

To add insult to injury today dozen's of stinking rubbish trucks use the range road every day. Why not transport Cairns rubbish on the train instead? The rail goes past Bedminster and Springmount was chosen for its proximity to the rail line. Why does CCC insist on inconveniencing range road users even more? Could it be they want people to experience more delays so they are more likely to wish for an "upgrade"?

The road now is probably at about 60% capacity. Generally traffic flow is good except for the odd heavy truck traffic slowing everyone else down. Limiting slow trucks (eg travelling at less than 40-50km) to night times would make a huge difference.

The "Upgrade" Proposal

The Queensland government decided in 2001 to opt for "upgrading" the existing range road to a 4-Lane Highway. This option was chosen because its 249 million dollar price tag made it much more attractive than the other short-listed option, the ~750 million dollar 4-Lane Road Tunnel.

Since then millions of taxpayer's dollars have been spent on the IAS (Impact Assessment Study). Those studies lack objectivity, are highly biased, at times misleading and even factually wrong.

The costing of the project meanwhile has blow out to nearly 600 million dollars and that does not yet account for the additional amelioration and other measures Wet Tropics Management (WTMA) asked for. Furthermore costing for the widening of required feeder roads (eg Kuranda/Mareeba, Kuranda/Myola, Smithfield/Cairns and Cairns bypass) are not included.

We also should keep in mind the bigger picture DMR has in their minds. Here is the whole vision. As you can see the Kuranda Range 4-Lane Highway is only the first piece of a vast and very expensive puzzle that totally relies on increasingly expensive petrol.

Let's stop this madness before it is too late!