OPENING: Southern Downs mayor Vic Pennisi, bridge namesakes Helen and Ross Palmer and Federal Maranoa member David Littleproud stand in front of the newly opened Palmer Bridge.
OPENING: Southern Downs mayor Vic Pennisi, bridge namesakes Helen and Ross Palmer and Federal Maranoa member David Littleproud stand in front of the newly opened Palmer Bridge.

‘Overdue’ bridge opened but road safety fears linger

THE official unveiling of Palmer Bridge at Freestone is one residents had been waiting on for years but work is still needed to improve Southern Downs road safety, residents warn.

The plan to upgrade the bridge from its previous one-lane timber structure to a two-lane bridge began in July 2019 — just after a horror truck crash in February of that year.

Resident Steve Kelly said cars would come as close as 4m to his house prior to the bridge being built.

But even now, with a new 80km limit, he would like to see more speed consideration put in place on the busy road.

“It depends where you live,” he said.

“I’m OK now, but houses further up, coming out of their driveways, they’re (cars on the road) coming up the hill a bit. And if you come through around 3.30pm, you’ve got schoolchildren walking home as well.”

Member for Maranoa David Littleproud said the Freestone bridge upgrade was long overdue.

Palmer Bridge at Freestone was officially unveiled yesterday.
Palmer Bridge at Freestone was officially unveiled yesterday.

The concern comes as other residents cite a growing use of the back road into Warwick, as a means to avoid the notorious Eight Mile intersection.

Helen Palmer, part of the longstanding Freestone family of whom the bridge was named after, said a traffic count a decade ago showed around 100 cars came through the bridge daily — an estimate she was positive would have increased by 2020.

Resident Sue Keong agreed.

“The traffic coming through now has definitely increased because of the tourism,” she said.

“(The bridge) certainly has opened up the community.”

Southern Downs mayor Vic Pennisi said Freestone was a priceless gateway to Brisbane for Southern Downs farmers.

“This piece (Palmer Bridge) will sit here for many hundreds of year I hope...and enable the produce, the food that we produce, to access where it needs to go,’ he said.

Councillor Ross Bartley also took the opportunity to voice the need for more federal road funding for spots of concerns such as the Cunningham Highway.

“We never miss an opportunity (to advocate for Cunningham Highway upgrades) because we would like that to be done one day and it might relieve the amount of traffic on this road,” he said.

“We all know, with local history, why we use this road.”

Palmer Bridge, and Upper Forest Springs Road Bridge, were a more than $1.5M project under the Federal Government’s Bridge Renewal Program.

The council first applied for a grant to build a new bridge at Freestone through the Bridges Renewal Program in 2015 but was unsuccessful.


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