The key problems identified in the region include:
- limited economic opportunities for communities in the region, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
- reduced opportunities for employment in remote areas
- reduced access to essential services for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, particularly during road closures
- limitations to development in mining, tourism and pastoral operations
- high vehicle operating costs
- poor flood immunity, resulting in lengthy road closures
- broader risks to health and safety for road users arising from poor road alignments, excessive corrugations and poor visibility.
A key cause of these problems is the poor quality of the road. Over two-thirds of Tanami Road is unsealed with substantial sections being unformed. This surface has led to the development of significant ruts and corrugations from heavy vehicles.
This initiative aligns with the findings from the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit, as well as with other government priorities, such as Closing the Gap targets. Further, the initiative was identified as an infrastructure gap in the 2015 Northern Australia Audit. The condition of the road also presents significant health and environmental risks, limits freight operations, and climate change is expected to worsen flooding outcomes in the near future.
The initiative proposes to upgrade and improve flood immunity and resilience for the Tanami Road between the Stuart Highway north of Alice Springs, and the Great Northern Highway at Halls Creek. Potential upgrades to Tanami Road could include:
- sealing key sections
- a mixture of sealing and gravelling particular sections
- sealing the entire route
- treatments at creek or river crossings o mitigate flooding impacts.
Proponent to complete business case development (Stage 3 of Infrastructure Australia’s Assessment Framework).