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Kangaroo warning sign
Kangaroo warning sign

Highways in Australia are generally high capacity roads managed by state and territory government agencies, though Australia's federal government contributes funding for important links between capital cities and major regional centres. Prior to European settlement, the earliest needs for trade and travel were met by narrow bush tracks, used by tribes of Indigenous Australians. The formal construction of roads began in 1788, after the founding of the colony of New South Wales, and a network of three major roads across the colony emerged by the 1820s. Similar road networks were established in the other colonies of Australia. Road construction programs in the early 19th century were generally underfunded, as they were dependent on government budgets, loans, and tolls; while there was a huge increase in road usage, due to the Australian gold rushes. Local government authorities, often known as Road Boards, were therefore established to be primarily responsible for funding and undertaking road construction and maintenance. The early 1900s saw both the increasingly widespread use of motorised transportation, and the creation of state road authorities in each state, between 1913 and 1926. These authorities managed each state's road network, with the main arterial roads controlled and maintained by the state, and other roads remaining the responsibility of local governments. The federal government became involved in road funding in the 1920s, distributing funding to the states. The depression of the 1930s slowed the funding and development of the major road network until the onset on World War II. Supply roads leading to the north of the country were considered vital, resulting in the construction of Barkly, Stuart, and Eyre Highways.

The decades following the war saw substantial improvements to the network, with freeways established in cities, many major highways sealed, development of roads in northern Queensland and Western Australia under the Beef Cattle Roads Grants Acts, and interstate routes between Sydney and Melbourne upgraded. In 1974, the federal government assumed responsibility for funding the nations most important road links, between state and territory capitals cities, which were declared National Highways. Some sections of the 16,000-kilometre-long (9,900 mi) National Highway system were no more than dirt tracks, while others were four lane dual carriageways. The network was gradually improved, and by 1989, all gravel road sections had been sealed. In the following decades, the National Highway system was amended through legislation, and was eventually superseded in 2005 by the broader National Land Transport Network, which included connections to major commercial centres, and intermodal freight transport facilities. Read more...

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View from below of Abbotsford Bridge's truss structure

Abbotsford Bridge is a steel Allan truss-type bridge spanning the Murray River between Curlwaa, New South Wales, and Yelta, Victoria. It is the only remaining steel truss bridge with a lift span that crosses the Murray. Opened in 1928, the bridge was built by the New South Wales (NSW) Department of Public Works and was designed by Percy Allan. It was the second last lift-span bridge to be built over the river, the last being the Nyah Bridge, which opened in 1941.

The bridge was constructed over a three-year period from 1925. The project was not originally planned to take as long, but there were delays due to problems with a contractor, and industrial action. The bridge was designed to carry the Mildura railway line over the Murray River and into New South Wales, to service significant cross-border traffic arising from the fruit-growing industry, but the line was never extended beyond the terminus at Yelta. The bridge currently carries a single lane of road controlled by traffic lights.

In 1931, there was a major accident at the bridge when a paddle steamer clipped the lift span, tearing apart the upper deck of the boat. Read more...

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Gone Driveabout 25, Great Northern Highway near Payne's Find, Western Australia, 25 Oct. 2010 - Flickr - PhillipC.jpg
Great Northern Highway near Paynes Find, Western Australia

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