TO CLARENCE Valley residents it seems grossly unfair we have endured our sub-standard 155km stretch of the Pacific Highway, between Woolgoolga and Ballina, for longer than anyone else.
But there is a silver lining for the region, says the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) Pacific Highway general manager Bob Higgins.
"The Pacific Highway upgrade has been going since the mid-1990s," he said.
"That means we have 20 years of working with every town and community along the route of the upgrade.
"In that period we have learnt the procedures of building the highway and dealing with the impacts on the towns.
"In this case the Clarence Valley is the last, but it will get the benefit of what we have learnt from our years of experience."
Mr Higgins said the RMS and its newly announced delivery partner Pacific Complete had a primary objective of building the highway on budget and on time.
But outside this primary role there was plenty of scope to work with councils and business to transition their economies into the post-construction phase.
Mr Higgins said economic activity in the Clarence would rise quickly once the construction phase of the work began.
"Following the normal pattern, it will plateau over the construction period and quickly fall away when construction is complete," he said.
"What the RMS and the delivery partner, working with business and the community, can do is get the local economy into a position that its performance goes up again after construction is finished."
One of the key improvements is the presence of the highway itself.
"What used to be an eight or nine-hour journey has already become a seven-hour trip," Mr Higgins said.
"The flow-ons for the Clarence is that it is now, time-wise, much closer to South East Queensland, opening up the region to one of the fastest growing economies in the country," he said.
Mr Higgins said there would be more conversations with the community even during the construction period.
"We have a concept plan for construction, but there is still plenty of room for us to move," he said.
"A good example is how we worked with cane farmers on the Shark Creek Bridge.
"We increased the length of the bridge from 400m to 800m which created a number of engineering benefits."