Gap closures cost $100K in one month, tunnel ‘only answer’
REPEATED closures of the Cunningham Highway are "devastating" the Southern Downs economy, prompting residents and representatives to call for significant road upgrades.
Bestbrook Mountain Resort, located in Tregony, has suffered a financial loss that stretches into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"I've thought about buying a mirror so I can sit here and watch myself go broke," said owner Ray Vincent.
"There is no one going past our door, no trucks or cars, and every second phone call is a cancellation.
"It's a Saturday, it's school holidays, and normally I'd have 100 people here. Today, I have 10. It's gut-wrenching."
The highway closed near the Gap for a number of weeks in November and December when fire began to tear across the Main Range.
The environmental damage left the mountain susceptible to landslide and it was closed due to flash flooding for approximately 12 hours last night.
Motorist Martin Batten said the situation was scary.
"There were waterfalls everywhere. Nothing to hold the water back," He said via Facebook comment.
"They had a fire truck trying to pump the water from one puddle on the highway."
Mr Vincent said if the closures keep happening they would send both his business, and the town of Warwick, completely broke.
He urged state and federal government to set aside funding for a tunnel, claiming it was the "only answer."
Calls for the construction of a tunnel through the Main Range were echoed by readers of The Daily News.
"This is ridiculous, the worst stretch of federal highway I have ever come across," Lou Mac commented on Facebook.
"First boulders, now it has permanent shipping containers and now this!"
Southern Downs Mayor Tracy Dobie said council was actively advocating for an upgrade to the road.
"Queensland Fire and Emergency Services and Parks and Wildlife make it very clear that when bushfires go through there will be ongoing issues left behind, to manage the highway and the instability of the rockfaces," Cr Dobie said.
"It does have a massive impact on our economy and we absolutely need it to be upgraded."
Cr Dobie said council not only wanted to see the construction of a secure and stable road, but also a much faster route.
"I want to see the trip from Warwick to Brisbane reduced from two hours to 90 minutes," she said.
"The delays for us are from Ipswich to Warwick, and that's where we want that time reduced."
Reduced travel time would have significant benefits to both the freight and tourism industries, according to Cr Dobie, who said the change would make the Southern Downs a lot more accessible to metropolitan areas.
There is, however, nothing in the state budget for the next couple of years.
"It would be great if they could do a major overhaul," Cr Dobie said.
"But look at the second range crossing in Toowoomba, that was pushed for 40 years before it was finally built."