Dear Prime Minister: Please fix our deadly highway
FOR many years it was Llew O'Brien's job to face the carnage of fatal crashes and try to make sense of the horrific scenes.
Now the federal Member for Wide Bay, who worked for years as a police officer in the region, says it is his job to prevent as many of those horror crashes as he possibly can, starting with fundingthe section D upgrade between Cooroy and Curra.
Last week Mr O'Brien sat down with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and presented him with a book he had compiled, The Case for Cooroy to Curra Section D, calling on Australia's most powerful man to allocate funding to the $1 billion dollar project.
The book includes an extensive collection of letters, reports and news articles about crashes on the Bruce Highway between Gympie and Maryborough.
Mr O'Brien said Mr Turnbull's reaction to receiving the book was encouraging.
"He was very receptive," he said.
Mr O'Brien said Queensland was lagging behind its southern cousins.
The Pacific Highway and Hume Highway are each four-lane highways that allow a certain degree of room for error, he says.
Section D would see the Bruce Highway extended to four lanes all the way to Gympie, but that was far from enough, Mr O'Brien said.
He said he would then continue the fight to ensure the highway was extended to four lanes through Maryborough and hopefully all the way to Rockhampton and beyond.
Mr O'Brien said he would be disappointed if a four-lane highway did not pass through Maryborough within the next decade.
But he said the key was first fighting to complete section D and then focussing attention on continuing the upgrades further north.
Each year on the Bruce Highway, there are about 50 deaths.
Already this year a 21-year-old Maryborough man lost his life on the treacherous stretch of road at Chatsworth, while a family of five was injured in the same crash.
The RACQ has estimated that, without action, a further 350 deaths and 5000 injuries on the Bruce Highway were likely over the next decade.
Mr O'Brien said he was conscious that people across his electorate, including the Fraser Coast, used the highway to travel south every day and that completing the section was vital to making the trip safer for thousands of motorists.
He said he would never stop fighting for the upgrade.
"Once it is completed, fewer families will be shattered by the news that their loved ones are not coming home.
"If we delay, more people will die."
During his time in the police force, Mr O'Brien regularly attended crashes.
The sad part of being in a small town was that he often knew the victims and their families, making an already heart-wrenching job even harder.
"It was difficult, just as it is for all emergency service workers," he said.
Mr O'Brien said while his focus was on the human and social consequences of delaying the project, it was helpful to note that upgrading the highway would have substantial economic benefits, as the freight network would be vastly improved.
"Maryborough would be one of the main beneficiaries," he said.
While floods over the years had traditionally cut off Maryborough and other parts of Queensland, a new, improved four-lane highway would make that a thing of the past, Mr O'Brien said.