BUSINESS leaders and commuters from both sides of the Kuranda Range road have called for action after the latest spate of closures on the mountain pass ground traffic to a halt.
Mareeba Chamber of Commerce president Joe Moro said traffic and disruption would only get worse on the link between Smithfield and the Tablelands in coming years.
“There is something like 10,000 movements between Kuranda and Cairns as we speak,” Mr Moro said.
“The closures are very frustrating. Business people in Mareeba are not only concerned about the flow of traffic but about the road accidents.
“It should be more flexible because at the moment it is slowing the economy down.” He said he would continue to push for action on the route along with his Cairns counterparts. “This needs to be a joint push,” he said.
Nick Loukas of the Cairns Chamber said the route served as an economic artery. “I think the politicians need to look at a better long-term solution for traffic access,” Mr Loukas said.
“The increase in closures due to road accidents will escalate. “We need dual lane or a tunnel for access to the community but also to build agriculture.”
Seasoned Mareeba truck driver Ben Beazley has been running big rigs for 14 years and said driver behaviour and hairpin turns on the twisty road made crossing the range a hazardous prospect. “Cars try to pass on the double white lines,” Mr Beazley said.
“Driving down with watermelons from Lakeland, the young fellas drive like lunatics.” In 2007 the Wet Tropics Authority announced support for upgrades to the range but plans for a $1 billion fourlane carriageway petered out in 2008 when then Main Roads Minister Warren Pitt said the work would be shelved until 2025. Early estimates on the cost had doubled from $500 million to $1 billion in 2007.
The Department of Transport and Main Roads and Member for Barron River Craig Crawford were asked for comment.