Nila Sweeney
After more than a decade of planning, development and construction, the $543m Tugun Bypass is on track to open earlier than anticipated in June 2008, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has confirmed.

Bligh visited Tugun to inspect the 334 metre tunnel that would form the centrepiece of the Bypass, and said that the Bypass is “well on track for its mid-2008 opening”.
 
The tunnel – which passes under the Gold Coast Airport's runway extension – is currently on the verge of being fully driveable to construction traffic.

"We’re still on track to deliver the project six months ahead of its original completion date, and we’re on budget – a testament to the excellent work done by the Pacific Link Alliance, a consortium of Main Roads, Abi Group and SMEC," Bligh said.
 
When it opens next year, the Bypass is expected to carry between 35,000 and 40,000 vehicles per day, with the capacity to carry the expected increase of 60,000 vehicles a day by 2017. It was funded through state and federal funding, with the Queensland government committing $423m, and the federal government contributing $120m.

Main Roads minister Warren Pitt said that the proportionally low federal funding amount was capped at half of the project's cost estimate of $240m, and preceded the lengthy Commonwealth environmental approval process.

"As a result, Queensland had to find extra funds to meet a doubling in project costs over that period," Pitt said.
 
The advantages of the Bypass include shorter travel times and reduced carbon emissions, Pitt added.

"In addition to cutting average travel times between Currumbin and Tweed Heads from 20 minutes to five minutes, it has been estimated the Bypass will save $59m in avoided accidents over 30 years, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 3.5% by 2017,” he said.

Bligh said the Bypass would cater for South East Queensland's unprecedented population growth.

"A recent population study found that the Gold Coast is the fastest growing region in the country and is now Australia's sixth biggest city. The Bypass is being constructed with such growth in mind,” Bligh said.

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