Not long after the Kamerunga Bypass upgrade was opened in 1999, a young woman with a child crashed at night into the concrete drainage infrastructure that sat unprotected between the carriageways - sadly killing herself, and leaving her young child with only minor injuries, but without a mother.
No cause for the accident was ever found - the young woman wasn't intoxicated, and the car was well-maintained. And while the roadway isn't well-lit in that location, there was never any cause found for the accident. It was recorded as a "driver error".
A simple driving error should not result in the death penalty.
A few years later, another young tradie went off the Cook Highway into the sunken roadway adjacent to the Smithfield Centre, crashing into the concrete structure and dying. Another accident with no apparent cause other than driver error. Another death penalty issued by the government for a driving error.
This problem has been a plague on much of rural Australia, but in Queensland it reaches epic proportions. In Cairns we have always had difficulty even getting any government of the day to recognise our road needs. Instead they spend billions on tunnels and bridges for Brisbane and we consider ourselves lucky to get substandard roads that are death traps.
Long-term residents of Cairns also know that the reporting of cars running off the road between Palm Cove and Port Douglas used to be a regular item on the evening news. Cars usually driven by tourists, or buses filled with tourists. These events stopped several years ago when Main Roads was ordered by the ALP Roads Minister to fix it. As a result, hundreds of meters of guardrails were installed on the road, seeing an end to this carnage. Millions of dollars well spent.
One of the last efforts at this repair were pushed thru by Anna Bligh's government just prior to the last election. And while we understand the LNP government tried to "freeze" all of these ALP projects, our contracts had been let and we've now begun to see the results.
All over the region, Main Roads contractors have been installing guardrails in the most dangerous of these locations - large dropoffs into concrete drainage channels. The same kind that took two lives in Cairns in the last decade.
Other areas that have long needed this kind of driver protection - notably on the Gillies Highway - have not been upgraded and Main Roads have refused to comment on these areas.
Brisbane City Government, under the then-mayor Campbell Newman, ordered a report on this problem in their area - which was then used to force the ALP government to repair these danger spots. However with Joh Bjelke Newman now Premier, he's cancelled any further spending on these projects inevitably dooming more drivers to the "Queensland Main Roads Death Penalty". 12 points and you're out.
Spending on Australian highways by our various levels of government is among the lowest in the world, by any measure. Countries that do the best (Germany, France, Switzerland, the USA) do so because road taxes collected with petrol are held in "trust funds" and can only be spent on transit. Here, we're at the mercy of the government of the day, and their feelings of largess (or not) for the local region. We know where we stand in that equation.
Kudos to the ALP for finally making some attempt to stop the road carnage in Cairns. Brickbats for Main Roads who refuse to release the Peninsula Roadway Risk Assessment to the community, so we can see how deficient the Cairns-area roadways are from a safety standpoint.
Oh, and how come we still have no boomgates at our rail crossings after the "big promotion" of these across the state???