A new 60km section of road with no speed limit was opened last week and the unrestricted section of the highway now travels from north of Alice Springs to the Ali Curung rail overpass. However, speed limits do apply when passing roadhouses and through communities.
According to the NT government, traffic data on the current open speed limit sections shows there has been only a small increase in speed, with 85 per cent of drivers travelling between 133-139km/h.
NT chief minister Adam Giles said the plan is to extend the open speed limit zone further to Tennant Creek and eventually to Katherine. He said the open speed limit was a unique feature of the Territory’s road network and his Country Liberals government was committed to expanding it.
The open speed limit looks set to become an election issue at the upcoming NT general election on August 27, 2016 with Mr Giles pledging to further extend open speed limits. Historically, the Labor Party has opposed unrestricted limits, abolishing the practice in 2007 and imposing a 130km/h limit on highways and 110km/h limit on other rural roads.
The government has promised to add new unrestricted sections between Mataranka and Larrimah (75.1km) and 47.5km between Daly Waters and Dunmurra. The 2016 budget already includes $1m to open the next section, 17km between Ali Curung to south of Wycliffee Well.
As well as extending the open speed limit zone, the road has been upgraded with trees cleared away from the edges, curves widened, and line markings, reflectors and signage improved.
“This is not a licence to drive recklessly; it’s about supporting individuals to make their own decision to drive responsibly,” Mr Giles said.