THE Pacific Highway upgrade must be finished by the end of the decade, says project manager Bob Higgins.
Mr Higgins, the RMS Pacific Highway general manager, fronted the Clarence Valley Council meeting on Tuesday to present the six-month report card for the project as well as updating councillors on the plans for the Valley for the next six years.
"Government has set us the task of having the upgrade from Hexham to the Queensland border completed by the end of the decade," he told the council.
Mr Higgins said about 60% of the project was completed, with the Woolgoolga to Ballina section the final piece in the puzzle.
He said works to the north and south of the Clarence Valley were close to completion, which would bring the focus of the entire project onto the Clarence for the next five years.
"We've got 2000 construction workers now and that will ramp up next year," he said.
"By 2016-18 when the project is in full swing, there will be more than 4000 workers on sites."
He said tenders had just closed for the Woolgoolga to Glenugie section of the highway.
"We hope to make an announcement of the tender early next year," he said.
"From that time to the start of construction work is normally about six months."
Mr Higgins said there would be some preliminary work done in the area to prepare "soft soils" for the construction process.
"There are soft soils along there," he said. "We're doing works early so soils can settle, then the main construction can build straight over it."
Cr Jim Simmons questioned Mr Higgins about the start date for construction of the new Harwood Bridge.
He said there was no firm date yet for that, but it would fit into the construction plan for the end of the decade.
"We've got a concept design for it, but as for the construction side of it, we'll leave that for now," he said.
He said there has been work done preparing soft soils near Harwood at Farlows Flat and there were trial emu control fences going up as well.
Mayor Richie Williamson said it was vital the region took an economic legacy from the boost the construction would provide for the region. "Now it's tip trucks and graders, but how can we make sure the region benefits across the economy?" he asked.
Mr Higgins said there was construction and indirect activities for the community to benefit from.
"We're doing work on how we can dovetail the two together," he said.
Cr Williamson said he would organise discussions between the council and the RMS to ensure the region gets a "bite of the cherry".
Mr Higgins said the RMS had already acquired about 70% of the 400-plus properties it needed.
The RMS has also been working with local councils gathering geo-technical and flood-modelling data for their planning.
"We've also had teams of archeologists and environmentalists along the route gathering data," he said.
He said the government had decided on a different delivery partner model for the Woolgoolga to Ballina section.
"It's based around the London Olympic model, which the RMS believes will achieve major efficiencies," Mr Higgins said.
"We've briefed industry, the expressions of interest are about to close. We'll make a short list, hold some discussions, and then early next year appoint a delivery partner. Then we'll hit the ground running."