The Department of Main Roads has now assessed the bids submitted by the construction companies interested in upgrading the Bruce Highway through Cairns’ southern suburbs and shortlisted the best two.

Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese today announced BMD/Albem/SMEC and Abigroup/AECOM had been invited to participate in the next stage of the selection process.

“The short-listing of these two consortiums was yet another major milestone in the delivery of this long overdue upgrade,” said Mr Albanese.

“After a further detailed assessment process, which will include both parties undertaking preliminary planning and design work, the final contract will be awarded later this year, with construction expected to start in 2012.

“This fully Federally funded project will realign and widen the Bruce Highway between Ray Jones Drive and Sheehy Road, and once completed in 2013, will ease congestion and reduce travel times for the 55,000 motorists that use this section of road every day,” he said.

All up, the Gillard Labor Government is investing a record $8.3 billion in Queensland’s road and rail infrastructure as part of its six-year Nation Building Program.

Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt said the move would be welcomed by locals.

“The Bruce Highway is a lifeline for the Far North Queensland and, with the population of Cairns set to more than double in the next 30 years, this road is an investment in our region’s future,” Mr Pitt said.

“Together, the Gillard and Bligh Labor governments are building a sustainable and vibrant Cairns underpinned by modern, well planned transport infrastructure – a city which continues to be a great place to visit, work and raise a family,” he said.

Member for Cairns Desley Boyle said this $150 million project will generate up to 400 local jobs and was the first stage in the delivery of a 30-year blueprint for the Bruce between Wrights Creek south of Edmonton and Draper Street near the Cairns CBD.

“Developed following extensive consultations with Cairns Regional Council and the local community, the blueprint sets out the transport infrastructure which this growing City will need in the years ahead,” said Ms Boyle.