The Gracemere overpass was officially opened to traffic on May 24th. It was only 3 years ago that Anna Bligh and Queensland Government Ministers stood at the site and announced funding for the $50 million project.
Minister for Keppel, Bruce Young, addressed the gathering and cut the commorative ribbon while Mayor Margaret Strelow provided the official welcome. Clay McDonald, Aurizon’s Vice-President (Network Operations), spoke on Aurizon’s behalf. Aurizon, formerly QR National, contributed 10 million dollars towards construction of the overpass. Mr. McDonald said that this contribution was the largest single contribution Aurizon had contributed to any safety issue. Mr Terry Hill, Regional Director (Central Queensland) Transport and Main Roads introduced the official party and long term business manager Louise Ward provided the closing vote of thanks.
The construction of the overpass was essential as the duplication of the rail lines and subsequent closure of the Malchi and Somerset crossings (two of the most dangerous rail crossings in Queensland) would have prohibited access to the Gracemere Industrial Area by trucks and vehicles. In 2011 there had been 110 near misses at the rail crossings.
The overpass will prevent accidents and ensure the safety of residents, those who work in the GIA, business-operators on the southern side of the highway and motorists who travel along the Capricorn Highway.
Leighton Contractors were quick off the mark and had permanently closed the old Somerset Road Crossing by the time the convoy of trucks with their loads had travelled across the overpass.
The opening was well attended by local business operators in the GIA, including transport businesses. Their presence affirms that this area is fast becoming the transport hub for the Rockhampton Region.
The approval by the Rockhampton Regional Council to allow road trains access to their depots enhances the transport hub even further and will reduce traffic movement in the GIA and across at the Saleyards Road Train facility that was provided by the Department of Transport & Main Roads.
A variety of heavy vehicles lined up to the be the first across the overpass. The motorcade included a truck carrying a demountable site office, a B-double fuel tanker, cattle trucks, metal-recycling carriers, a flat deck with a large air conditioning unit and more. Noel Schwarz’s CQ Rail Services carried two low-loaders with their purpose-built rail excavators on board.
CMC and their Project Manager, Luke Hall, deserve special recognition for their outstanding work in completing the project in a very short time, considering the size of the project and the severe weather conditions that impacted the project in January and in general over the last summer. Construction commenced in February 2012 and the project took 16 months to complete.
Project Manager Charlie Lloyd-Jones and staff worked closely with transport operators to ensure the overpass and Somerset Road Connection were suitably designed to cater for B-Triples and Road Trains. The GIA is one of the few precincts in Queensland that can be accessed by vehicles of such configurations. On Charlie Lloyd-Jones’ retirement, Gavin Hill took over and completed the project.
Council staff, too, have worked tirelessly on this project and on access routes within the GIA to come up with a traffic plan that complements the overpass access and also limits heavy transport within the residential precincts.
Indications from traffic already using the overpass show that it is going to be a great success.