Travelling the Pacific

The Pacific Highway became a major trucking route in August 2002 when the 28.6 section of dual carriageway between Yelgun and Chinderah was completed. The opening saw the entire Pacific Highway open to the operation of B-doubles with notorious sections of road replaced including the Buladelah Range by-passed with a dual carriageway and enormous time savings afforded to operators.

There has been plenty of water under the bridge, or bridges, since 2002 and work on further sections of the highway have given trucking operators safer sections of roadway to travel on and delivered substantial fuel savings in carrying out the rapidly growing road transport task.

The Pacific Highway has been a disgrace, an intercapital route shunned by trucking companies for years due to poor surfaces, somewhat less than desirable road alignment, numerous small towns to negotiate and heavy tourist traffic adding to the dangers. But times are changing – for the better.

It has been a tough battle to gain funding and the first priority is to build a dual carriageway between Newcastle and Port Macquarie, Ballina and the Queensland border and Raleigh and north of Woolgoolga linking with Grafton. The master plan has been to complete these sections in the years to 2014 and work is advancing rapidly, forming part of one of the most extensive and intensive road projects ever undertaken in Australia.

ATA CEO, Stuart St Clair, took the opportunity to travel the highway pulling a fully loaded B-double combination, courtesy of Volvo, to inspect the current state of play in the Pacific upgrade. He is always keen to steer a truck up the highway and talk to operators and drivers, dressed in driving attire and taking a close look at truck movement as a driver rather than as CEO of the industry’s peak body.

A run to the F3 Freeway from Sydney, which has undergone massive improvement over recent years, was uneventful apart from the usual holdups along Pennant Hills Road from the city and once on the route to Newcastle. It was in conditions drivers experience every day and night of the week.

Through to Karuah and further north to where work is ongoing before reaching Buladelah there are some rough sections on the existing roadway, however road works are progressing. When completed, traffic will by-pass the Buladelah township on an 8.8 kilometre section and link with the dual carriageway range by-pass to Coolongolook. Works on the northern end of the town are advanced and due for completion late this year.

“It is good to see the amount of road works underway in this area,” comments Stuart St Clair. “When completed it will remove blackspots and improve safety and productivity for the road transport industry.”

Safety is obviously high on the agenda as proven by road conditions through to the end of the Taree bypass, including the narrow bridge at Coopernook Bridge that saw drivers having to call their approach over the radio to facilitate travel.

With Kew now bypassed another section or road is delivering faster travel times and increased safety, and major works are nearing completion on the road into Port Macquarie just past the ‘Donut’ that is delivering easier traffic movement into the coastal town.

B-double access along this section of roadway is being made easier, undoubtedly appreciated by operators such as Jim Pearson Transport and is allowing trucks and cars to experience a much safer drive into the township.

Port Macquarie to Kempsey and through to Coffs Harbour, a total of 151 kilometres, remains a section of highway requiring care. This road section offers some dual lane travel yet it is rough for trucks in many places. Rest areas are dotted along the route with reasonable facilities and Stuart St Clair stopped at one where he had discussions with drivers about the highway and ongoing improvements.

The general consensus was all enjoyed the completed sections of road, with an overwhelming appreciation of improved safety during travel and fewer gradients lessening fatigue along the route.

The Kempsey bypass project is under construction and was approved by the NSW Minister for Planning on 10 July 2008. As part of the Building Australia Fund, the Australian Government announced that it would provide $618 million for the construction of the Kempsey bypass.

The 14.5 kilometre Kempsey bypass project is part of the 40 kilometre Kempsey to Eungai project, which extends from the existing dual carriageway south of Kempsey to the existing dual carriageway at Eungai Rail.

The bridge over the Macleay River and Floodplain will be 3.2 kilometres long on completion, making it the longest bridge in Australia. It is expected to be completed in mid 2013.

The 40 kilometre long Kempsey to Eungai project is due for commencement in 2014. Stage one, the Kempsey Bypass is currently under construction and on completion will alleviate traffic holdups in the central business district fronting the Pacific Highway.

Both the residents of Macksville on the Nambucca River and drivers will applaud news of the bypass to be built. This community is a major stopping place for trucks yet little on-road parking is available in the town that is well known for its narrow bridge. The announcement of a route to pass to the east of the township is yet to be advised, however planning is under the microscope.

Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) has called for applications for registration of interest from the road construction industry to design and build the Nambucca Heads to Urunga upgrade section of the Warrell Creek to Urunga Pacific Highway upgrade. A shortlist of applicants will then be chosen and invited to submit tenders.

RMS is also continuing with land acquisitions and investigations to prepare this section for the start of construction in 2013.

A technical review of an alternative route between Wedgewood Drive south of Macksville and the Nambucca State Forest west of Nambucca Heads, including the crossing of the Nambucca River downstream of the approved route is nearing completion.

Coffs Harbour, a major city on the NSW North Coast, has been something of a problem for road designers, planner and builders. For years the city has seen a number of bypass options put forward with no real result, but once north of the city outskirts, progress is progressing rapidly.

The Sapphire to Woolgoolga Pacific Highway upgrade will provide a four-lane divided highway extending approximately 25 kilometres from Campbell Close, Sapphire, to Arrawarra Beach Road, Arrawarra.

Any operator travelling the route is well aware of the huge project underway in this area and traffic holdups have been kept to a minimum. Progress in this area is again rapid, including bridges and interchanges. The works will eventually meet with dual lane roadway at Halfway Creek and address road conditions over the Corindi Range.

A section of dual carriageway recently opened near South Grafton has eliminated dangerous corners and poor road surface, again saving travel time. Pulling into Grafton it was obvious the long awaited dual lane Pacific Highway between Hexham and Brisbane is forging ahead and with a completion date mooted for 2016 certainly not out of the question.

The Ballina bypass was recently opened and is already regarded as boosting transport efficiency, and according to Herb Blanchard Director, Michael Blanchard, travel time between Grafton and Brisbane has been lessened by at least 20 minutes. The remaining single lane roadway replacement will shave that even further.

When it comes to rest areas along the route, while many are in place, the plan is to provide a stopping place every 50 kilometres along the route.

“The Pacific Highway upgrades so far completed are already providing a boost for all road users and road works underway are certainly welcomed by all,” says Stuart St Clair from behind the wheel of the B-double combination.

“Safety is all important on this highway that has had a tragic history on so many sections and it is good to see money being well spent on providing a transport route for the future.”

Leave a Reply

  1. Australian Truck Radio Listen Live
Send this to a friend