Gap completion is coming...
ROADWORKS and heavy machinery have become something of a permanent fixture at Cunningham’s Gap over the past eight months and it seems motorists should not expect them gone anytime soon.
Extensive roadworks have come after $40 million in funding from the Australian and State Government Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA) to repair damage which resulted after more than two metres of rain fell in the area during December and January.
But local business owners are not holding their breath for the work’s end, including Crisps Coaches owner Russell Crisp, whose drivers travel through the Gap at least four times each day.
Although he said he had noticed improvements in the journey, Mr Crisp was not optimistic of a solution before Christmas.
“I can’t see them leaving there for the next six to eight months,” he said.
Mr Crisp said he had noticed a vast change in waiting times at the Gap, with his average trip now including 10-15 minutes of waiting time as opposed to the 30-60 minutes he was enduring previously.
“It seems to be much more organised and the stop/go guys seem to know what they’re doing,” Mr Crisp said.
“It is still a real pain but we’re just going to have to put up with it.”
Despite the hefty funding being assigned to the Gap, Mr Crisp believed it was just a “patch-up job” and needed a more permanent solution.
“There is always going to be problems at the Gap and I think they are just going to have to bite the bullet and build tunnels there – I think that’s the only way to fix it,” Mr Crisp said.
Department of Transport and Main Roads district director Paul Noonan visited the Gap yesterday, saying he was extremely pleased with the progress and rejected talk of the project being a mere patch-up job.
“These are permanent fixes and we are attacking them in a structured manner,” Mr Noonan said.
“Our priority since day one has been to fix the damage done by the wet weather.”
Despite his optimism about the work progress, Mr Noonan conceded the machinery and roadside workers would remain a fixture of the Gap for some time yet.
“It’s going to take many months because we have to keep the road open and it is very challenging work over multiple sites and in difficult conditions,” he said.
“But we are very much on track and are very mindful of the impacts and to keeping the traffic flowing.”
Workers are clearing and stabilising roadside slopes, repairing drainage and reinforcing the roads at 11 sites over a 7km highway stretch and Mr Noonan said the effects would be considerable.
“What this work is going to do is to create a very resilient Cunningham’s Gap and if there is any movement at all, we will be on top of it,” he said.
Despite delays for motorists travelling through the troubled stretch of road having been inevitable for some time now, Mr Noonan said people were generally co-operative and patient.
“People are pretty understanding when they see the extent of the work going on and they understand the work hasn’t stopped,” he said.
One business owner directly affected by the work at the Gap said he had suffered substantial financial loss since work began in November last year – at times more than half of his income.
Although unhappy with the lengthy work, the business owner said he was beginning to see improvements.
“You can see there is progress there, but the question is how long will it take?” he said.