THE Australian and Queensland governments last week said the landmark $1.6 billion Toowoomba Second Range Crossing is one step closer, with the Nexus consortium signing a contract to deliver the project.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss said the project will underpin Queensland's economic and industrial development, and provide social benefits for the region.
"Nexus was selected for the project because of their expertise, innovative design and ability to deliver a value-for-money project that will support the movement of freight to the Port of Brisbane," Mr Truss said.
"More than 1,800 full-time jobs will be supported during construction of the project, which is a boost for long-term employment prospects in the region. The new road will also save up to 40 minutes in travel time for heavy vehicles compared to travelling on the existing Range Crossing, while also avoiding 18 sets of traffic lights.
"This project continues the Australian Government's commitment to improving national prosperity, increasing productivity and delivering the infrastructure Australia needs."
Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt said the signing of the contact follows an extensive and rigorous procurement process led by Queensland Treasury.
"I'm delighted through this process we've been able to deliver an outcome that demonstrates innovation, value for taxpayers and is environmentally responsible," he said.
Federal Member for Groom Ian Macfarlane said the Australian Government considers the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing to be one of the nation's most important infrastructure projects and has committed $1.285 billion toward the project.
Mr Macfarlane said the project will improve quality of life, enhance road safety and cement the region's significance as an economic hub by encouraging new business investment and jobs growth.
"As the Surat Basin and Lockyer Valley are important for the agriculture and mining sectors, the Second Range Crossing also will improve efficiency for freight operators and free up local roads for residents."
Queensland Minister for Main Roads Mark Bailey said the project will deliver real benefits for Toowoomba by enhancing safety on the existing range crossing and across the CBD road network, and significantly reducing travel times.
"This is a project that has been on the drawing board for far too long—it can't come soon enough for motorists and for workers who will benefit from new jobs," the Minister said.
"The Toowoomba Second Range Crossing will bring $2.4 billion over 30 years of productivity gain for business and industry to Toowoomba."
Mr Bailey said the project would include a separated connection to Mort Street.
"This will particularly benefit freight operators who need to travel in and out of Toowoomba," he said.
"The final design will also see two lanes built each way from the Warrego Highway East Interchange to Warrego Highway West and grade separated interchanges at Warrego Highway West, Toowoomba-Cecil Plains Road and the Gore Highway.
"A 30-metre deep cutting at the top of the range will also be built as an alternative to a tunnel proposal, enabling safer travel for all heavy vehicles, including ones carrying dangerous goods."
The Toowoomba Second Range Crossing will be delivered as a Public Private Partnership, with the Queensland Government contributing up to $321 million towards the project.
Construction will commence this year, with the project reaching completion in late 2018.