We’re on the road again

Daneka HillNorth West Telegraph
Member for Pilbara Kevin Michel, third from left, and Minister for Transport Rita Saffioti, fourth from left.
Camera IconMember for Pilbara Kevin Michel, third from left, and Minister for Transport Rita Saffioti, fourth from left. Credit: Kevin Michel

A notoriously dangerous section of Marble Bar Road that faced controversies throughout construction has finally reopened to the public after a multimillion-dollar upgrade.

The $54 million realignment project through Coongan Gorge was carried out to improve road safety and reduce vehicle operating costs in a spot that once consisted of narrow lanes, tight curves, restrictive sight lines and 40kmp/h speed limits.

Residents and road users have long had concerns about the state of the road, between Marble Bar and Newman, and the Coongan Gorge project has been pitched as a win against a particular deadly 4km section of the road.

During its 10-month long construction, the project attracted protests from a group of Marble Bar residents when the work site started pumping water from a valuable permanent pool in the gorge used by Aboriginal residents as a fishing ground.

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WA Main Roads defended the actions by explaining “unseasonably dry wea-ther” had meant the two bores installed to provide the work site with its water needs ran empty.

The site mainly required water throughout construction to keep dust down.

In a joint statement, the State and Federal governments said the project faced “some challenges through the delivery phase” due to the dry weather, followed by record rainfall from tropical cyclone Veronica.

Shire of East Pilbara president Lynne Craigie said the Shire was “sincerely grateful” to the State and Federal Government for funding the improvement.

“However, there still remain large sections of the Marble Road that are dangerous and the Shire of East Pilbara will continue to lobby for further improvements to our road network,” she said.

This includes a funding submission tabled by the Shire in 2015/16 to seal priority sections of Marble Bar Road, which the Shire said they are still waiting to hear back on.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack recognised Marble Bar Road as an important route for the area for both “the local community and the mining industry”.

WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said several hundred heavy vehicles used the road daily.

“The upgrade to Marble Bar Road is essential to ongoing economic development and for connecting local communities in the central Pilbara region.”

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