Improvements coming to Winton-Opalton road

By Michael R Williams

The Outback Regional Road and Transport Group (ORRTG) recently reviewed the Regional Road Hierarchy Invest Priority maps and Roads of Strategic Importance and other State Funding going into the new year.

Chair of the Outback Regional Road and Transport Group Gavin Baskett said three of the group’s priority roads will get complete sealing in the new year, including Muttaburra-Cramsie road, and Blackall-Jericho.

“So, they’ll get completed and we’ll remove them from the priority ones so we can put some other roads in,” he said.

“Like the Winton-Richmond Road and the Tambo to Alpha, Clermont, and Springsure roads.”

Mr Baskett said the group’s main priority is the Birdsville-Bedourie road.

“It is one of our main communities and it doesn’t have a sealed road yet, so that’s our main priority for the whole region,” he said.

“It’s almost going to be complete [by the end of the year] – it’s got 15kms through channel country that will take a significant amount of funding because it’ll need a lot more work than your normal road.

“That stretch will be all that’s left after this funding.”

For major events that occur in Birdsville, most travellers come in through the Charleville but, Mr Baskett said many choose to return through the Bedourie.

“The roads get knocked around from the gravel [going through the Charleville],” he said.

“You’ll find most travellers return through Bedourie/ Boulia, so the more bitumen that gets on that road, the more people that will travel that way back through the central west.”

The ORRTG also reviewed the Local Roads of Regional Significance, with Mr Baskett highlighting improvements coming to the Winton-Opalton road.

“That road is getting more and more use with tourists and opal miners are getting back into the business and becoming more popular again,” he said.

“The Local Roads of Regional Significance (LARS) is roads in each of our seven shires that are important to our local economy.

“Usually that’ll be stock transport or mining in the Winton area – the Opalton road wasn’t on this map the last time it was reviewed, five years ago.”

Mr Baskett this time the ORRTG were successful in having the Winton-Opalton road added by the technical group, a separate group that reviews the ORRTG’s work.

“It’s just a very important road to us – more and more opal miners are getting down there and the Opal industry is really starting to kick off,” he said.

“And that will take-off when international borders open.

“There’s the Opalton bush park, which is a caravan park down there that sees a lot of trade in the tourist season and, they’re also wanting to open the interpretation and visitor information centre and, once that’s completed that road will get more and more traffic.

“We’ll identify that as a road that maybe needs more maintenance than it currently gets – but once it’s on this LARS, it’s on a priority to be worked on, not just in the Shire, but the whole outback region.”

Mr Baskett said moving forward as funding comes in, different roads will move up and down the priority lists.

“Once the dirt roads are all sealed in the priorities, then we’ll concentrate on widening roads like the Barcaldine-Aramac or Longreach-Jundah road,” he said.

“Until a road is fully sealed at six to eight metres, they will remain on this map as an important road.”

With the WQAC, the ORRTG is also working with the northern and southern road groups to lobby the State Government for the importance of these roads.