St Mary’s pupils (from left) Declan Murphy, Eliza McLennan, Eve Kelly and Chelsea O’Connor back in 2007 when it was announced the State Government would upgrade the Wood Street crossing.
St Mary’s pupils (from left) Declan Murphy, Eliza McLennan, Eve Kelly and Chelsea O’Connor back in 2007 when it was announced the State Government would upgrade the Wood Street crossing.

Underpass all about the kids

IT took countless near-misses, hundreds of letters to the premier and an endless supply of staunch campaigning by passionate parents, staff and community members.

Yesterday was the day many thought would never come as the $7.8 million St Mary’s underpass was officially opened to the community.

St Mary’s principal John O’Connor was among those who breathed a sigh of relief as Main Roads Minister Craig Wallace cut the ribbon, summing up the reasoning behind the epic project.

“It’s all about keeping our students safe,” Mr O’Connor said. “For those of us who have experienced near-misses it is a great relief to walk safely through the underpass.”

In a surprise announcement by Minister Wallace, it was revealed the newest part of the Rose City landscape will be called the Billy Day Underpass, named after the young boy who was tragically struck and killed at the Wood Street crossing in 1973.

Campaigning for a permanent fix began in 2007, after then-premier Peter Beattie announced he would review the traffic situation at all split campuses across the state.

The review followed the tragic death of Redcliffe State High School 13-year-old Caitlin Hanrick, who was killed when crossing the road.

“We wanted to get something done before we had a similar tragedy happen here,” Mr O’Connor said.

Minister Wallace travelled to Warwick yesterday to open the underpass, which he hoped would make “one of the busiest thoroughfares in Warwick” safer.

“On a weekly basis, St Mary’s can have up to 1000 primary school children cross between campuses which has obvious safety and traffic flow impacts on Wood Street – a thoroughfare with nearly 10,000 vehicle movements a day,” he said.

“Safety of all road users, particularly children, is imperative to my department and this new infrastructure is a safe step in the right direction in protecting young lives.”

At the official opening yesterday, Mayor Ron Bellingham said the “1926 vintage St Mary’s Church” was an iconic part of the community and something which people did not want to see impacted by the underpass.

“But I am sure many here are surprised with the finish – it is a quality product which is what was needed,” he said.

“I truly believe this complements the church and complements the community.

“Our heritage is so important – this adds another piece to the jigsaw to which is essentially our heritage.”

Warwick Police officer-in-charge Acting Senior Sergeant Shane Reid said the local police had input into the underpass project.

“From a road safety point of view the underpass will make it a lot safer for pedestrians,” Act Snr Sgt Reid said.

He assured the community they would be safe in the 24-hour underpass.

“The area is very well-lit, there are security cameras fitted which will be monitored – if there are any problems which come up we will deal with them but we don’t anticipate any safety issues,” Act Snr Sgt Reid said.

A Main Roads spokeswoman said the underpass came in on budget at $7.8 million, also managing to deliver more than planned including landscaping, new turf in the churchyard and use of asphalt at the intersection.

Interestingly, an overpass – thought to be a cheaper option than an underpass – opened at Rockhampton’s Emmaus College on the Bruce Highway last month came in over budget at $8.08 million.



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