Today the farming town of Mareeba, to the west of Cairns with a population of 15,000, came of age. The first permanent traffic lights ever seen on the Atherton Tablelands were turned on this afternoon but the traffic outcome was not what The Main Roads Department had expected.
Costing $3.47 million, the new lights at the Byrnes and Rankin Street intersection were predicted to improve safety for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.
Instead a traffic jam of Rodeo Procession proportion saw cars and trucks backed up for more than one kilometre along the main thoroughfare of Byrnes Street for more than an hour, coinciding with school departures at 3pm.
Mareeba Shire Council has had almost no involvement with the construction of the lights and the new intersection as Byrnes St is the responsibility of TMR.
Residents and business proprietors have questioned why traffic lights replaced a large roundabout when a gazetted but unmade vehicle bypass skirts the CBD which would alleviate the extremely high volume of traffic movements along Byrnes Street.
Katters Australian Party spokesman for FNQ Alan Webb said the bypass should have been constructed a decade ago removing the need for traffic lights and taking large trucks out of the main street.
“These single semitrailers carrying Cairns garbage, soon cane trucks and heavy trucks traveling to the west and north every day are an accident waiting to happen,” Mr Webb said.
“I know (Member for Kennedy) Bob Katter has been in talks with TMR in Cairns and federal authorities in Canberra about funding for the bypass but neither the state government nor the federal government want to know about it.”
Mareeba mother, Ann-Marie Keating was quite worried when it took the school bus an extra 40 minutes to go past the gate to their small farm, 6 klms from town.
“I had picked up the kids from school because of the traffic and it took me over 40 minutes to get home instead of 15 and the bus was just behind me,” Ms Keating said.
“On Monday I don’t know if the bus will come early to get the kids to school on time. The kids will have to get up early to make it then if it is 40 minutes late again it will be a long day for them.
“It could be a very long day on the bus for kids from further out.
“There were temporary traffic lights set up at Centenary Park and Anzac Avenue intersection that made the congestion worse than Cairns.”
Member for Cook Cynthia Lui has been contacted for comment.