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Georgina River bridge underway.



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13 June 2002 B58/2002

GEORGINA RIVER BRIDGE UNDERWAY

A new high-level Georgina River bridge and five kilometres of approach road represents the first stage of a multi-million dollar upgrade for the Barkly Highway between Mt Isa and the Northern Territory border, Federal Transport Parliamentary Secretary, Senator Ron Boswell, said today.

Inspecting progress on the construction of the 417-metre bridge, Senator Boswell said the $15 million bridge will end wet season delays and frustration for drivers regularly stranded at Camooweal when the Georgina River floods. The new bridge is taking shape about 30 metres upstream from the existing structure.

A new Inca Creek bridge, to the east of Camooweal, new crossings of Carlton Creek and Whistler Creek and widening over 73 km of the Barkly Highway are included in the Federal Government's roads strategy for the highway.

"The Federal Government has budgeted $53.6 million over three years to upgrade the Barkly Highway west of Mt Isa," Senator Boswell said.

"Our commitment to a quality highway includes a better alignment, additional overtaking lanes and improved flood immunity."

Senator Boswell said planning has also been accelerated in the leadup to building new high-level bridges over Johnson and Nowraine creeks and the Buckley River.

"Within three years, the Federal Government will have achieved a substantial improvement to the reliability of the Barkly Highway, removed the worst of the floodprone bridges and put in place the transport infrastructure necessary to sustain the North-West's, pastoral, mining and tourism industries," he said.

Senator Boswell said the importance of upgrading this section of the highway could not be underestimated. "Floodwaters on the Barkly Highway in 1999 closed the route for nine days and load restrictions for heavy vehicles remained in force for a further four weeks," he said.

"The combined effect of these works will be a safer, more efficient Barkly Highway capable of remaining open longer during the wet months, with less damage caused to vehicles that use it."

The Georgina River bridge incorporates a unique arch design that respects Aboriginal cultural sensitivity about minimising impacts to the river bed.

In a unique partnership between the indigenous peoples of Camooweal and government, 33 Aboriginal workers participated in the initial stages of the project. They were trained in heavy machinery operations with the potential of securing employment in further stages of the Barkly Highway upgrading.

The next project to proceed in the Federal Government programme will be the Inca Creek bridge and approaches, incorporating bridges over the Carlton and Whistler creeks. This project will be 21.4 km long and will cost $18 million.

"The new structure at Inca Creek will be built to a new alignment approximately 800 metres upstream (north) of the existing road crossing. The new bridge will be 8.6 metres wide and 241.7 metres long.

"Associated works include upgrading the existing floodway at Carlton Creek (3.2 km), a deviation and drainage structures upgrade at Whistler Creek (7.75 km), and elimination of several sharp crests," he said.

Media Contact: Leah Nicoll 0407 132 284