Cairns to Smithfield

Captian Cook Highway, Cairns CBD to Smithfield, upgrade (C2S)

An integrated and efficient road connectivity network is critical for economic stability and growth. Population growth in FNQ and the Cairns northern beaches in particular, calls for an immediate response with this corridor plagued by accidents, lengthy delays and bottlenecks.

The road network provides vital access to the region’s resident population of more than 285,000¹ (with up to 50,000 tourists during peak holiday season) ensuring accessibility to health, education, community services, and trade. Due to continued population growth, FNQ’s road transport system faces increasing pressure – which is particularly evident on Cairns’ northern beaches.

Meeting the growing demand for freight has strained existing infrastructure, impacting on transport costs and service levels across the supply chain.

Benefits to the region

The proposed initiative brings forth a multitude of benefits vital for the region’s development. It promises heightened economic and social outcomes, with the potential to create fresh residential areas, catering to the growing needs of an expanding linear city.

Additionally, the project’s implementation stands to unlock crucial supply chains, significantly improving the resilience and efficiency of the region’s freight network. Moreover, the initiative is poised to advance safety and security standards, ensuring a secure and protected environment.

Further, it aims to augment national and regional connectivity, fostering increased accessibility and seamless integration within the area.

Recommendation

The Queensland Government ensures the master planning for the Captain Cook Highway (Cairns CBD to Smithfield upgrade) be finalised as a matter of urgency by the end of 2023.

The Queensland Government allocates $225m towards the Captain Cook Highway (C2S) over three years from 2024-25 in accordance with the Queensland Transport and Roads Investment Program 2023-24 to 2026-27*.

Project overview

An integrated and efficient road transport network is critical for economic stability and growth. Population growth in FNQ and the Cairns northern beaches in particular, calls for an immediate response with this corridor plagued by accidents, lengthy delays and bottlenecks.
The road network provides vital access to the region’s resident population of more than 285,000¹ (with up to 50,000 tourists during peak holiday season) ensuring accessibility to health, education, community services, and trade. Due to continued population growth, FNQ’s road transport system faces increasing pressure – which is particularly evident on Cairns’ northern beaches. Meeting the growing demand for freight has strained existing infrastructure, impacting on transport costs and service levels across the supply chain.

The National Highway A1 was extended by the Australian Government in 2020 to the intersection of Captain Cook and Kennedy Highways and Mount Milman Drive, Smithfield, north of Cairns. In 2019, prior to this road re-classification, the Australian Government announced it would fund the road upgrades to Smithfield together with the Queensland Government on an 80:20 basis. The need to upgrade Captain Cook Highway to enhance connectivity was recognised by the Australian Government in its July 2020 release of the 2019 National Land Transport Network (NLTN) Determination Review.

In January 2023, the Department of Transport and Main Roads (DTMR) released a preliminary master plan for C2S outlining some of the proposed upgrades of stage 1 of the $359m project and undertook public consultation. DTMR’s master planning is expected to be completed by late 2023.

Although early works on the project started in 2023, DTMR has noted planning for C2S is based on a 2046 design horizon. With Cairns’ population forecast to grow 43% by 2046², the geographic constraints of a linear city bound by the World Heritage-listed mountains and rainforest to the west and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to the east significantly constrains both population expansion and the ability to build new roads. Therefore, it is imperative for the future prosperity and liveability of Cairns that the Captain Cook Highway, Cairns CBD to Smithfield, upgrade be undertaken as a matter of urgency to meet pressing current and future needs.

¹ Economy.id, Economic Profile, Far North Queensland Regional Organisation of Councils, last updated June 30, 2022, https://economy.id.com.au/fnqroc
² Queensland Government population projections, 2023 edition; Australian Bureau of Statistics, Regional Population, 2021

*This is subject to the Australian Government’s Infrastructure Investment Program Strategic Review.

Last updated: 17 November 2023

2024-25 Queensland Budget Submission

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