The Pacific Highway is a 960km-long major transport route that connects two major Australian cities, Sydney and Brisbane. It passes through Wahroonga, Gosford, Newcastle, Taree, Kempsey, Coffs Harbour, Grafton and Ballina.

The highway is being upgraded into a four-lane divided road. The project has been jointly undertaken by the Australian and New South Wales (NSW) Governments since 1996. The two governments have committed A$3.6bn to continue the upgrade programmes. The upgrade is expected to be completed by 2020.

The improved highway will alleviate regional development and provide safer journeys, reduced travel times, more consistent and reliable travel, as well as improved transport efficiency.

Pacific Highway Upgrade project

The Pacific Highway Upgrade programme being undertaken by the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) is a 677km-long road refurbishment project. It is one of the largest road infrastructure improvement projects in the history of New South WalesNSW. In addition to upgrading new sections of the highway, safety improvements to the existing highway are also being made.

The project consists of a number of sections that are being prioritised based on their importance, and budgets are being allocated accordingly.

Priority one, which is expected to be completed within the five-year programme ending 2014, includes the completion of the dual carriageways between Hexham and Port Macquarie, Ballina and Queensland border, and Raleigh and north of Woolgoolga.

Priority two consists of the completion of a dual carriageway between Port Macquarie and Raleigh.

Safety upgrades to the dual carriageway at Glenugie (south of Grafton) and Devils Pulpit (north of Maclean) will be carried out as priority three. This also involves environmental assessments preparation and designs developed for the undeveloped two-lane sections of the highway between Woolgoolga and Ballina.


Most of the Pacific Highway upgrade project is being jointly funded by the Australian and NSW Governments.


Construction is being carried out on four main sections, namely Ballina to Tweed Heads, Coffs Harbour to Ballina, Port Macquarie to Coffs Harbour and Hexham to Port Macquarie sections of the highway.

The Ballina to Tweed Heads section covers a distance of 90km. Approximately 14km of the section is being upgraded to a four-lane divided highway and another 17km is being prepared to facilitate the construction of a four-lane divided highway.

Projects currently under construction within this section include the upgrading of 12km of the Ballina bypass between Bruxner and Pacific Highway’s intersection and north of Ballina about 500m north of the intersection with Ross Lane at Tintenbar, a carriageway between Bruxner Highway and Teven Road, the Tintenbar to Ewingsdale section, a carriageway between Woolgoolga and Wells Crossing, and the Woolgoolga to Ballina section.

Projects that have been completed within this section include the four lane Bangalow Bypass duplication project (December 1997), the 1.9km single-carriageway bypass between Brunswick Heads and Yelgun (1998), the 5.7km dual-carriageway Chinderah Bypass upgrade (December 1996), the Ewingsdale Interchange project, the 4.3km-long dual carriageway upgrade from Ewingsdale to Tyagarah (October 1998), Tugun Bypass project (June 2008) and Yelgun to Chinderah Freeway (August 2002).

The Coffs Harbour to Ballina section covers a distance of 209km. It currently includes 15km of a four-lane divided highway, 32km under construction, 6.5km being prepared for construction and another 165km in the planning phase.

The Devils Pulpit section involves a 7.3km carriageway between Grafton and Woodburn, a 7km-long Glenugie upgrade, Sapphire to Woolgoolga upgrade and Coffs Harbour bypass projects are being carried out within this section. Projects completed include Gap Road upgrade (May 1998), Halfway Creek realignment (2004), Korora Hill Reconstruction (December 1997) and Tyndale Realignment (June 2000).

The Port Macquarie to Coffs Harbour section is presently a 151km-long highway, which, when upgraded will be reduced to 146km. The section currently includes 14.5km of four-lane divided highway under construction, 26.4km being prepared to facilitate further construction and another 79km is in the planning phase.

The Frederickton to Eungai upgrade was opened to the public in May 2016. The Kempsey bypass upgrade was commenced in June 2010 and scheduled to open by mid-2017. The Oxley Highway to Kempsey section upgrade, between the Oxley Highway at Port Macquarie and the Kempsey bypass, will provide 37km of four-lane dual carriageway.

The Warrell Creek to Urunga section involves the upgradation of 42km of the existing highway from Allgomera deviation to Waterfall Way at Raleigh to a four-lane divided carriageway. The 22km section from Nambucca Heads to Urunga was completed in July 2016. The remaining 20km section between Warrell Creek and Nambucca Heads is scheduled to open to the public in 2017.

Projects completed within the Port Macquarie to Coffs Harbour section include the Eungai Deviation project (December 1998), the dual-carriageway upgrade between Lyons Road and Englands Road (2001), the Raleigh Deviation project (September 1998) and the Bonville upgrade (September 2008).

The Hexham to Port Macquarie section of the Pacific Highway presently covers a distance of 218km and will be extended to 220km after the completion of the upgrade.

The concept design of the F3 Freeway to Raymond Terrace upgrade was announced in July 2008 and major work on the Bulahdelah upgrade was commenced in July 2010. A contract for the Herons Creek to Stills Road section was awarded in December 2010. The Failford Road to Tritton Road upgrade is in the planning phase.

Projects completed within this section include the Bulahdelah to Coolongolook section (October 1999), the 11.7km-long dual carriageway between Coolongolook and Wang Wauk (July 2001), the highway upgrade between Bundacree Creek and Failford Road (2006) and the Coopernook Bypass upgrade (March 2006).

The section also included the Herons Creek Deviation duplication project (November 1993), Karuah Bypass (September 2004), dual carriageway of Raymond Terrace bypass (December 1998), Raymond Terrace to Karuah upgrade (December 2000) and the 33km dual carriageway upgrade of the Coopernook to Herons Creek section (July 2010).


The Ballina bypass project is being carried out by RTA in alliance with Leighton Contractors, Maunsell AECOM, SMEC and Coffey Geotechnics. The design and construction contract for the Banora Point upgrade has been awarded to Abigroup Contractors, Seymour Whyte Constructions and SMEC. Concept design and environmental assessment of the Woolgoolga to Ballina section will be undertaken by an alliance of RTA, Sinclair Knight Merz and Aurecon.

The Tugun Bypass project was undertaken by the PacificLink Alliance consisting of Abigroup, SMEC and Queensland Main Roads. RTA and Hyder Consulting have formed an alliance to prepare the detailed design and environmental assessment of the Devils Pulpit section. The Glenugie upgrade is being undertaken by the Glenugie Alliance comprised of Macmahon, RTA and Arup.

Leighton Contractors and Fulton Hogan are responsible for the design and construction of Sapphire to Woolgoolga upgrade. Kempsey bypass upgrade is being undertaken by the RTA, Leighton Contractors, AECOM and Coffey Geotechnics.

The construction contract for Herons Creek to Stills Road section was awarded to BMD Constructions in December 2010.

The Coopernook Bypass upgrade was undertaken by Abigroup. The design, construction and ten-year maintenance of the Karuah Bypass was awarded to Thiess. Daracon Engineering, Fletcher Construction Australia, Belmadar Constructions, RTA Operations and CSR Emoleum were the main contractors for the Raymond Terrace bypass project. The Coopernook to Herons Creek upgrade was undertaken by an alliance consisting of the RTA, Thiess and Parsons Brinckerhoff.

Other major contractors involved in various sections of the project include GHD, Civilcon, Seovic Civil Engineering, Ridge Consolidated, Cooks Constructions, P Ward Civil Engineering, Cut and Fill, and Baulderstone Hornibrook Engineering.