Proposed Warrego Highway – Mount Crosby Road Interchange Upgrade.
Proposed Warrego Highway – Mount Crosby Road Interchange Upgrade.

State must find more dollars for this Highway to Hell

OPINION: YOU don’t need to be an engineer to see that we have a serious problem on our hands at the Mt Crosby Rd interchange.

But if you intend to fix the problem, you’ll be needing some brains, and a considerable amount of cash.

The increase in population at Karalee and Chuwar has turned this once adequate series of highway ramps and roundabouts into a dangerous bottleneck come the 7-9am and 3-5pm peak times.

The simple fact is that anyone who has to drive this section of road daily – and I am among those – knows that something significant has to be done to synchronise the flow of vehicles.

The solution has been discussed for several years now, and it is only recently that we’ve seen Member for Ipswich West Jim Madden pushing ahead with the current plan, which went out for public submissions earlier this year.

One Nation candidate for Ipswich West Gary Duffy (inset) has called on Labor's Jim Madden to push for improvements to the current plan.
One Nation candidate for Ipswich West Gary Duffy (inset) has called on Labor's Jim Madden to push for improvements to the current plan.

While I commend the fact that some action has been taken, I fear that the current plan appears to be a budget-conscious solution rather than one that will really solve the problem.

Let’s start off by looking at what the planned changes involve.

This won’t take very long, because if you look at the plan released by Transport and Main Roads, you’ll see that it basically involves adding additional lanes to the roundabouts at either end, with a slip lane for northbound traffic at the exit of the Warrego.

Let’s consider one example of the problems at the interchange and theoretically put this plan into action.

In the afternoons, the vast majority of vehicles exiting the Warrego from Brisbane are actually residents from the northern side of the highway.

This means that after they exit, they have to do a U-turn at the southern roundabout.

Due to the sheer volume of people driving this route at peak times, it makes for an almost constant barrage of traffic coming off the highway and turning right.

For anyone headed north out of Ipswich via Mt Crosby Rd, this means you have to wait a long time for a break in the traffic at the Tivoli roundabout, resulting in a queue of vehicles that sometimes stretches back to Tivoli State School.

While not dangerous, this results in lengthy delays of up to half an hour.

Mt Crosby Rd interchange aerial photo. Part of the current plan involves cutting off access to Coal Rd (left of picture) and adding an additional lane to allow northbound traffic to slip past more easily. Picture: Cordell Richardson
Mt Crosby Rd interchange aerial photo. Part of the current plan involves cutting off access to Coal Rd (left of picture) and adding an additional lane to allow northbound traffic to slip past more easily. Picture: Cordell Richardson

Where the real danger lies is for the westbound Warrego Highway motorists, with the off-ramp sometimes backing up onto the left lane of the highway.

The current fix, which involves adding an additional lane for southbound traffic at the roundabout, will achieve little, because vehicles exiting the highway will still need to merge across this traffic in order to turn right at the roundabout.

The amount of traffic turning right will not change, so the backlog of northbound vehicles on Mt Crosby Rd will continue.

Let’s move on to the northern side of the interchange.

The combination of all those vehicles heading north from Ipswich and Brisbane are now preventing vehicles that have merged off the Warrego Highway from the eastbound side from joining Mt Crosby Rd.

This creates a dangerous backlog of vehicles on the off-ramp that sometimes blocks the left lane of the highway.

Part of the plan is to add an additional lane allowing northbound traffic to continue on through the roundabout.

I believe this solution could be more effective, as the majority of exiting vehicles are likely to be heading north and won’t have to cross over.

Likewise, these additional slip lanes should help traffic flow more effectively in the mornings, assuming they allow Brisbane-bound and Ipswich-bound traffic to clash a bit less.

So the problem remains over what to do on the southern side of the interchange so that you don’t get the clash of vehicles turning off the highway with those continuing north on Mt Crosby Rd in the afternoon peak hour.

I don’t claim to have the most intelligent and cost-effective answer to that problem, but there are people who are qualified to come up with these solutions.

It has been suggested the overpass should be two lanes each way, I can’t see how this would hurt, but it would cost a lot more.

Another suggestion I’ve heard – and this is one that specifically addresses the main problem – would be to create a new off-ramp on the west bound lanes after the overpass, allowing northbound traffic to merge onto Mt Crosby Rd without having to perform a U-turn at the Tivoli roundabout.

Whether this idea is practical, or safe, is another question.

So far the State and Federal Governments have committed $22 million to the job as part of an 80/20 funding split.

It sounds like a lot of money, but perhaps it isn’t when you bear in mind the fact that a total of $400 million has been set aside for the Warrego Highway from Ipswich to Toowoomba.

When you consider what was spent at the Blacksoil interchange – roughly $93 million back in 2013-14 – then you have got to wonder why more isn’t being put into Mt Crosby.

Not only has there been a proliferation of residents in the area, but Mt Crosby Rd, in a similar way to the Brisbane Valley Hwy, is part a popular scenic route, frequented by motorcyclists, among others.

They say the poor man pays twice.

Well, I have a feeling we might be paying for more upgrades in the coming years if we don’t fix the Mt Crosby Rd interchange properly this time around.