A $1.13 million investment in Birthamba Road will make the busy South Kolan link safer for school buses and the hundreds of motorists which use it daily.
The funding, proposed in Bundaberg Regional Council’s 2021-22 budget to be handed down on June 29, is the start of a $5.051 million project that would significantly improve safety.
Mayor Jack Dempsey said the Birthamba Road upgrade was one of the first projects to be prioritised under the Road Investment Strategy.
“Council is taking a strategic approach to prioritising road upgrades which ensures we’re delivering the best possible outcome and the greatest value for money for our community,” Mayor Dempsey said.
“This upgrade is vital with up to 815 vehicles travelling this road every day.
“Birthamba Road acts as a significant link for nearby agricultural activities and it’s also a key school bus route.”
The proposed funding would allow work to start on stage one of the project which would widen a 2.135km section of Birthamba Road between the South Kolan Hotel and the intersection of Ruths Road and Raines Road.
The busiest sections of the road, which make up stages one to three of the project, would be widened to 8m and sections which experience a lower volume of traffic for proposed stages four and five would be widened to 7m.
Divisional representative Cr Wayne Honor welcomed the inclusion of the Birthamba Road safety upgrade in the proposed budget.
“The entire community living within the Birthamba Road area will welcome news that safety works will begin soon,” Cr Honor said.
“This is a project that is extremely close to the hearts of the local community for safety reasons and anything that can be done to give a wider carriageway will be most appreciated.
“There is a considerable amount of rural residential property all the way along Birthamba Road and it’s a real feeder to the South Kolan, Bullyard, Gin Gin and Bundaberg schools.”
He said while the entire project would be completed over five stages residents in the area would be given a boost of confidence knowing that safety improvements will begin in the next financial year.
Joe Pardon is not only a South Kolan resident, he also drives the South Kolan State School bus.
He estimates he would drive Birthamba Road about six times per day, with up to 43 students picked up on his bus route which travels up and down Birthamba Road twice daily.
Mr Pardon welcomed news that work to widen the busy road would start if the proposed Council budget was adopted.
“When I do pull over to pick students up it’s not too bad on a dry day but on a wet day you sink real quick,” Mr Pardon said.
“So I’m sitting in the middle of a 100km zone waiting for kids to be seated before I can take off again.”
He said Birthamba Road was a main thoroughfare for locals and, in its current state, it was easy to fall off the edge or end up in the middle of the road.
“Visibility is a real issue on Birthamba Rd … it is a bit windy.
“We’ve had a big increase in the number of cyclists out here, I’ve noticed.
“Especially early morning and sometimes late afternoon … it’s really hard to get around them.
“The other issue with that width as well is there’s also a bit of an increase in kids walking down the road.
“They used to stop at every single house for high school buses but now they stop at certain points.”
The remaining four stages of the project would be subject to future budget allocations and funding applications.
The Birthamba Road widening project has been supported through the Federal Government Roads to Recovery program.