Part of the remote and mostly gravel 1,077km-long Tanami Road that connects several rural communities in northern Australia is to get a sealing upgrade.
The state government of Western Australia recently earmarked nearly US$347 million to seal the 314km stretch of the Tanami Road that runs between the town of Tanami and the state’s border with the Northern Territory.
Meanwhile, around 700km of the highway is within the Northern Territory – the section that many critics have said is the worst part of the entire road. Heavy goods vehicles are often slowed to 35kph or less depending on the corrugation of road or during the rare wet weather conditions.
However, the project, which is expected to transform the economies along the road through some of the country’s harshest outback, could take up to a decade to complete, according to Australian media.
The Tanami Road - also known as the Tanami Track, Tanami Highway and the McGuire Track - runs between the Stuart Highway in the Northern Territory and the Great Northern Highway in Western Australia. It is also known as State Route 5 in the Northern Territory. Its southern junction is 19km north of Alice Springs and the northern junction is 17km south-west of Halls Creek.
Only about 20% of the road is bitumen making it best navigated by four-wheel drive vehicles. It is also a major long-haul trucking route. In January 2020, Australia’s federal government committed US$165 million to upgrade and seal the road.
Local politicians and economists have long been saying that turning the 314km dirt section of the road into a highway would allow mining and agriculture to be profitable in the more remote areas.