WIDER ROADS: Somerset Council has applied for drought funding to widen the roads.
WIDER ROADS: Somerset Council has applied for drought funding to widen the roads. Jodie Dixon

Drought relief could fund road upgrade

SOMERSET Council's plans to widen the Esk-Crows Nest Road could become a reality in a bid to increase accessibility and business potential in the drought-stricken area.

If approved by the government, the upgrades set to be completed by June next year will allow trucks to access the area with increased ease and safety.

Somerset Mayor Graeme Lehmann said the $1 million upgrade would be beneficial to the area.

"We want to improve safety and productivity for trucks carrying fodder, farm supplies and cattle by widening the bitumen,” Cr Lehmann said.

"We will widen the bitumen seal on parts of the road that are only 4.4 metres wide currently.”

With about 90 trucks using the road daily, Cr Lehmann said the upgrade would better connect the area to towns outside the region. "There are some big properties in that area and Esk-Crows Nest Road also links through to the Toowoomba Regional Council area,” he said.

The funding is part of a Federal Government initiative aimed at helping councils in drought stricken areas pay for local infrastructure projects and other drought-relief activities. The program is intended to provide short-term support, by boosting local employment and procurement, and addressing social and community needs.

"The Drought Communities Program helps boost local economies with an immediate cash injection and allows us to invest the money in something that will be a long term benefit to our farmers,” Cr Lehmann said

The DCP conditions suggest employing local businesses to complete the upgrades, but it is yet to be confirmed who will be contracted for the work.

"When the Australian Government announced the funding they said that they would like to see the money spent with local contractors and we are waiting to see the guidelines for more information about requirements,” Cr Lehmann said.

"We are conscious of the requirement that this work has to be done by 30 June 2019 and we are confident we can deliver this project by then.”