Despite the COVID-19 crisis hanging heavily over Australian politics, quarrels about the M1 have saturated this year’s campaigning.
A Second M1 is the Gold Coast’s highly anticipated major road project aiming to significantly reduce traffic congestion on the Pacific Motorway (M1)
Construction is all but guaranteed under both a Labor and Liberal Government, each party fervently promising to deliver action to Queenslanders better than the other.
With Stage 1 of Labor’s “Coomera Connector” solution set to begin construction as early as mid-2021, the project has been a prominent issue this campaign season, particularly in the Coomera, Gaven and Nerang electorates.
Community consultation closed on October 11 but there’s still a bumpy road ahead for the Second M1.
Such projects have not been popular amongst Queenslanders in the past.
Former Labor Premier Wayne Goss lost eight seats during the 1995 Queensland state election, largely due to his plans for an additional motorway (dubbed the “koala toll road”) which would have run through koala habitats.
In 2018, construction of Stage 1 of the Coomera Connector raised concerns for local wildlife, particularly koalas in the Coomera area.
The Department of Transport and Main Roads engaged researchers from Griffith University to monitor Koala movement in the area.
Many communities and landowners are also fearful of whether or not this construction would mean forced property acquisition.
The Pacific Motorway is the busiest road in Queensland with an average of 145,000 vehicles travelling the road daily.
Labor’s “Coomera Connector” would provide a 42km corridor east of the Pacific Motorway between Loganholme and Nerang that aims to:
- reduce travel time, especially during peak hours;
- provide more reliable travel times between Brisbane and the Gold Coast;
- increase traffic flow;
- improve safety;
- contribute to the economy, and;
- encourage active transport, such as cycling.
“The Coomera Connector corridor is wide enough for up to 6 traffic lanes and will include provision for public transport and a shared path for walking and bike riding. It will provide more transport capacity to support the rapidly growing residential and business communities in the northern Gold Coast and neighbouring Logan.”
Identified as a priority section, Stage 1 stretches 16km long and provides an additional crossing of the Coomera and Nerang rivers.
The Palaszczuk Government has pledged $755 million to fund Stage 1, aiming to take up to 60,000 vehicles off the M1 every day.
This is only half of the total budget according to Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey.
The remaining funds are expected to be covered by the Federal Government.
This project comes as part of the Palaszczuk Government’s $830 million Gold Coast roads and infrastructure package which includes upgrades to Exit 45 at Ormeau and further light rail construction.
The entire route has been officially gazetted as a future state-controlled road, protecting the area from new development and ensuring action.
Stage 1 alone will support over 700 new jobs in addition to the 1600 jobs supported by future roads and infrastructure endeavours.
This Second M1 is a key issue for marginal seats in South East Queensland, particularly those areas immediately effected by the initial stage of the project.
Member for Gaven Meaghan Scanlon said building the Second M1 must be the next major road priority.
“The second M1 will start in my electorate and is a project I’ve pushed hard for on behalf of our community since I was elected,” she said.
Ms Scanlon also stated increasing accessibility to public transport is a vital future endeavour.
“Our Government is partnering with the City of Gold Coast to look at more high frequency east-west services, including future east-west light rail and bus priority opportunities to connect to Metricon Stadium, and we’re investing in better bikeways to support different ways to travel.”
The LNP’s approach
The LNP believes adding additional lanes to the M1 will not suffice – motorists need alternative routes to avoid gridlocks and bottlenecking.
In contrast to Labor’s 16km 6-lane stretch (Stage 1), the LNP’s plan would involve a 6km 4-lane arterial road built in three key stages, beginning with a small stretch between Coomera and Helensvale.
The corridor already exists, meaning the project will have a short construction time.
The LNP promises to deliver these upgrades in 2021 and without tolls.
LNP Candidate for Gaven, Kirsten Jackson, did not provide any further information about the LNP’s policies on the Second M1 or plans to reduce congestion on the M1 in her email response to our questions.
The Greens push back
Sally Spain, Greens Candidate for Gaven and President of Wildlife Queensland’s Gold Coast branch, said the Greens are looking for tomorrow’s rather than yesterday’s solutions to deliver improved transport and mobility.
“The Gold Coast Greens do not believe the Coomera Connector is the best answer to the traffic problems of the Gold Coast and do not support its construction,” she said.
“The emphasis on the Coomera Connector highlights the failure of planning and imagination besetting our major parties.”
“More highways, road widenings and road upgrades won’t fix congestion from predicted population growth in South East Queensland.”
Whilst Ms Spain stated the Greens support road maintenance and upgrades such as those desperately needed on M1 exits, she believes the Coomera Connector causes more troubles than solutions for the people of the Gold Coast.
“The Coomera Connector also won’t help with access problems in north Gold Coast, particularly if we see urban development on the cane fields,” she said.
Ms Spain emphasised investment in public transport as an alternative, with priority given to fast rail link construction and expanding the bus network.
“People should be able to go easily go from their homes to major hubs completely on public transport,” she said.
“We could take cars off the M1 and Coomera Connector by using express buses on them.”
Ms Spain was also concerned for noise levels generated by the Connector, an issue that is not foreign to Gold Coast residents.
Furthermore, Ms Spain highlighted the potential for ecological damage.
“[The LNP and ALP governments’] current approach would damage the Eagleby Wetlands, an area of Aboriginal significance and environmental importance.
“They must find an alternative route in the Northern section that avoids this damage,” she said.