Cairns Ring Road

Project Description

The Bruce Highway is part of the National Highway and provides the vital linkage between Cairns, other Queensland coastal cities and Brisbane.  Currently the National Highway terminates in the Cairns CBD (almost adjacent to the Port of Cairns) and runs some distance from Cairns Airport to finally converge at Smithfield, north of Cairns (from which Port Douglas/Mossman, the northern Atherton Tablelands, Cape York Peninsula and Gulf of Carpentaria are all accessed).

The Cairns Airport is a critical piece of infrastructure in North Eastern Australia. It serves as the point of entry or exit for tourists visiting the region, is a key freight hub (enabling the export of produce including seafood, fresh flowers, fruit and vegetables), and provides expertise and service capability in aviation services.

There is significant potential to expand export activities, particularly to Asian markets. The growing freight market serves to sustain airlines balancing the seasonal variation in passengers. Connectivity to the Airport from the north, west and south is a critical enabling factor in the future development of the airport as an export and service hub.

Access to the Cairns Port from the north and west and between the port and the airport is constrained by the need to travel directly through the city.

The “missing link” in the current road configuration is highlighted by:

  1. the National Highway not connecting with the principal regional export hub i.e. the Cairns Airport with our southern access and the Cairns Port;
  2. the National Highway not connecting with the principal northern freight route into Cairns (airport, port and to the Bruce Highway) from the region’s agriculture producing areas i.e. Atherton Tablelands, Cape York Peninsula and Mossman; and
  3. significant commuter congestion issues on the Captain Cook Highway and along the Western Arterial Road, leading from the northern beaches into the city.

The solution involves fully linking the northern most part of the National Highway to the Smithfield roundabout, the Cairns Port and Airport. This will require the designation of a Cairns ring road. The National Highway needs to be extended from the current terminus in the Cairns CBD north to the intersection of the Captain Cook and Kennedy Highways at Smithfield. The Cairns Ring Road traverses via the western arterial road to the west of the city to connect back with the northern end of the Bruce Highway.



Strategic investigations, costings and design 2017/18
Commence construction activities 2018/19




That during 2017/18, the Queensland Government, through DILGP, DTMR and DIRD, work with the Commonwealth Government to amend the Auslink (National Land Transport) Act 2005 to extend national highway designation from the current terminus in the Cairns CBD north to the intersection of the Captain Cook and Kennedy Highways at Smithfield

That the Queensland Department of Transport & Main Roads engage with the Commonwealth Government and commence strategic investigations and design of a Cairns ring road in 2017/18, and that the State Government commits $5M to the planning studies and budgets for construction to commence by 2018/19.



CEO, Advance Cairns
Ph: 07 4080 2900

PROPONENTS: Advance Cairns,  Cairns Regional Council,   Cairns Chamber of Commerce, RDA FNQ&TS
PRIORITY: Infrastructure
STATE ELECTORATES: Cairns, Barron River, Mulgrave