Is the Bruce Highway boost too good to be true?
BRUCE Highway funding has arrived with a rush for the Sunshine Coast with more than $1.6bn worth of work now committed between the Sunshine Motorway and Caboolture.
The staged six-laning of the highway is all but guaranteed with the Federal Budget announcement of $530m to be boosted by a further $131.5m from the State Government lifting total funding to $662.5m.
The money comes on top of the $929.3m already committed by the federal and state governments to an expensive Caloundra interchange rebuild and six-laning of the highway between Caloundra Road and the Sunshine Motorway.
Work on that project will start mid-year.
Fairfax MP Ted O'Brien said the region should be cheering Tuesday night's budget which when combined with the interchange project had made the Sunshine Coast huge winners.
Sunshine Coast trucking boss Peter Carter, owner of Carters Transport, said his fleet was losing up to 20 hours a day stuck in traffic between the Coast and Brisbane. He welcomed any funding for the highway.
However Queensland Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey has agreed with Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson that the funding was not new money and has questioned where the $530m amount had come from given planning for the project while fast tracked by his department would not be finished before the end of this year.
Mr Bailey said the money represented the reinvestment of savings realised from other projects in the Bruce Highway Upgrade Program. He would be writing to Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Darren Chester as to how the amount was determined.
The rush of funds won't come without challenges for the Coast's tourism industry which draws 90% of its trade from holiday makers arriving by road.
Visit Sunshine Coast boss Simon Latchford said the budget was "awesome news".
"We've all complained and asked for action and now we have it," Mr Latchford said.
"We now need to be strategic. This is a massive gain that comes with a bit of pain but you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs."
The tourism industry has a multi-pronged approached to compensating for any loss of numbers from frustration caused by construction delays.
Mr Latchford said it was now more critical the airport project was built quickly to build local and international capacity.
Capacity at the existing airport would continue to be boosted as it had by the new Qantas and Adelaide services and constantly looking to grow additional direct flights into the region.
Visit Sunshine Coast had already started to push hard to build direct flight numbers from New Zealand.
There would also be campaign to increase mid-week conference-style events to add suits as well as board shorts to the region's tourism mix.
Mr O'Brien said he and Fisher MP Andrew Wallace were delighted by the budget announcement.
He said the funding may not cover the entirety of funding needed to complete the project which would be delivered in stages.
Mr O'Brien said the $662.5m delivered 80% by the Federal Government and 20% from the Queensland Government would meet the cost of highway roadwork from Pine River to the Caloundra interchange.
Planning being undertaken by the Queensland Government would be completed by the end of this year.
It would deliver complete preliminary planning for priority upgrade works to the 60km link with a list of priority upgrade works to increase safety, ease congestion and improve flood immunity.