A POTENTIAL $1.5 billion investment in a major freight route could bring boost public safety, promote tourism, connect regional communities, and boost the economy, according to a major industry body.
The Civil Contractors Federation of SA is backing a call from Labor leader Peter Malinauskas to push for a duplication of the two-lane stretch of the Augusta Highway between Port Wakefield and Port Augusta to be added to a list of federal priority roads.
Since 2015, that section of road has had close to 400 traffic accidents, resulting in 30 fatalities.
"The road between Port Wakefield and Port Augusta is an absolute disgrace for a national highway, and well below the standard you expect in a first world economy," CCFSA chief executive officer Phil Sutherland said.
"It beggars belief that this section of National Highway A1 - also called the Augusta Highway - remains in such a dilapidated state, given its crucial link to the national road system."
Mr Sutherland said as well as the public safety concerns, improvements to the road would also help regional SA to grow.
"A far better road will facilitate and encourage the growth of Whyalla and better support the Cultana Military Base at time when national security warrants it," he said.
"It is fantastic to see the current upgrade to the bridge at Port Augusta and cleaning up the traffic congestion at Port Wakefield. Now is the ideal opportunity to build a modern road between those two heavily trafficked points."
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Mr Sutherland said when National Highway A1 was duplicated from Gepps Cross to Port Wakefield in the 1980s, that work stopped at Port Wakefield - meaning traffic progressing further north was restricted to single lanes either way.
"Duplicating this section of the Highway between Port Wakefield and Port Augusta would not only give the public a long overdue, safe and seamless highway, but during the construction phase, we would also see the generation of much needed jobs and increased productivity to stimulate the state's economy during the pandemic," he said.
Mr Sutherland said due to its parlous state, that section of National Highway A1 is constraining SA's productivity.
He noted more than 75 per cent of non-bulk domestic freight is carried on roads, dominating freight movements between capital cities, including Adelaide. Truck traffic is predicted by Infrastructure Australia to increase nationally by 50pc by 2030.
"It is no secret SA requires a stronger and more prosperous economy. Road infrastructure is one of the key pillars that supports that ambition," Mr Sutherland said.
"Upgrading this section of highway will tick many boxes including public safety, relieving road transport congestion, connecting regional communities, promoting tourism, creating new jobs and business opportunities and increasing productivity."
Late last year Business SA also put together a similar push for duplication in its state budget wishlist.
At the time industry and government engagement executive director Anthony Penney said the Joy Baluch duplication should only be the first step in a staged duplication of the entire road.
RAA road safety senior manager Charles Mountain told The Transcontintal that such a project was a high priority given the traffic - including B-doubles and freight vehicles - that use the road as well as anticipated growth and developments in the Upper Spencer Gulf area.
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