Pacific motorway highway upgrade near Wardell and Broadwater.
Pacific motorway highway upgrade near Wardell and Broadwater. Marc Stapelberg

Snapshot of progress on the highway: Special feature

THE duplication of the Pacific Highway is one of the biggest infrastructure projects on the books in Australia.

It has cost billions of dollars and is in the home stretch in terms of completion.

The Woolgoolga to Ballina section of the road is the final link in the Pacific Highway upgrade between Hexham and the Queensland border.

It means smooth sailing with four lanes of really good road north of Newcastle.

In Wednesday's Northern Star we take a little peek into the future and get a snapshot of the project so far.

We talk to contractors working on the upgrade and people living and working along its vast length.

According to the Roads and Maritime Services' website, the project includes upgrading the highway to motorway standard over its 155 kilometre length.

It includes nine interchanges, more than 170 bridges and more than 350 'connectivity structures'. In the process it will bypass South Grafton, Ulmarra, Woodburn, Broadwater and Wardell.

Construction of the highway has also revealed some secrets including indigenous artefacts such as hand tools that have been carbon-dated to about 1500 years old.

Local indigenous land councils have worked alongside Roads and Maritime Services to identify and preserve significant sites.

It's hard to remember a time in the past 10 to 20 years when the highway hasn't been under construction.

Its completion will not only improve safety along this significantly dangerous corridor, but drastically improve travelling times between major centres on the Northern Rivers.

It will further open up the tourism potential of this region with many more towns now in the commutable distance from Brisbane and south-east Queensland in particular.