A $1 billion upgrade to the M1 Pacific Motorway on the Gold Coast has been fast-tracked to start now in a bid to bust congestion and create a jobs pipeline during the COVID-19 recovery.
The upgrade will boost the capacity of the M1 from Varsity Lakes to Tugun, meaning there will be at least six lanes from Brisbane almost to the NSW border.
Concrete safety barriers have been put up, VMS boards installed and speeds reduced to make way for the mammoth 50-50 jointly-funded project from the Federal and State Governments.
It comes as another milestone is reached on the $218.5 million M1 upgrade between Mudgeeraba and Varsity Lakes with the new Stapley Drive bridge expected to open to traffic next week.
"We're getting moving as quickly as we can to get shovels in the ground and workers on site," says Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
"Our $500 million investment to upgrade the M1 will boost jobs and get workers home sooner and safer.
"This isn't just a project with significant long-term benefits, it's going to be delivering benefits right now with more jobs to help local workers as Australia moves past the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic."
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says the project is not only about tackling congestion in Australia's sixth-largest city, but also keeping Queenslanders in jobs.
"This project will support more than 830 jobs and we're going to keep delivering jobs and infrastructure for the Gold Coast and the whole of Queensland," says Palaszczuk.
"We're starting before the current section is complete because we want to see progress and jobs continue.
"Getting started on this project sooner rather than later means when we come out of COVID-19, Queensland's economy can support as many jobs as possible."
Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge says the project will be divided into three packages, with the section from Varsity Lakes to Burleigh the first to be delivered.
"Start of construction has been fast-tracked because we know the delivery of major infrastructure projects like the M1 is essential to supporting jobs and economic growth at this time," says Tudge.
"It's rare to see a project of this size start construction within several weeks after contract award but we know it is vital to get this project up and running at a time when creating and maintaining jobs has never been more critical.
"This is just one of our major infrastructure projects that will be essential in the post-pandemic economic recovery."
Queensland Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey says close to 80 per cent of businesses currently working on the first M1 upgrade between Mudgeeraba and Varsity Lakes are local.
He expects Gold Coasters will see that level of local engagement replicated on an upgrade five times the size, benefitting the city for years to come.
"The Queensland Government has secured $2.5 billion to build a better M1, and to create more than 2,000 jobs and plenty of work for dozens of local businesses," says Bailey.
"Getting shovels in the ground now means that once works wrap up on the Mudgeeraba to Varsity Lakes section in mid-2020, there won't be a pause in much-needed jobs.
"Attacking coronavirus means going at it from all angles. That includes the economic front, where major construction projects like this are crucial to keeping Queenslanders employed and assisting businesses as much as possible."
Federal Member for McPherson Karen Andrews says this is a win-win-win situation, particularly as the Gold Coast feels the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
"Getting this project started ahead of time is a win for jobs, a win for our economy and a win for Gold Coast drivers," says Andrews.
"By relieving the southern Gold Coast of the constant traffic bottlenecks, we can reduce travel times and increase freight efficiency."
The project will feature the region's first Diverging Diamond Interchange and more lanes for the 10-kilometre stretch between Varsity Lakes and Tugun and there will also be upgrades to the Burleigh Heads, Tallebudgera and Palm Beach exits.
It will also include building a new service road bridge over Tallebudgera Creek and connecting a new western service road (one lane each way) between Palm Beach (Exit 92) and Tallebudgera (Exit 89). The corridor south of Varsity Lakes will be preserved for a future rail extension.
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