Eton Range Realignment Project

Eton Range fully opened to traffic on 1 October 2020. We have upgraded the existing range crossing to 4 lanes, added a split carriageway for part of the range and reduced the grade to improve safety and efficiency.

The Peak Downs Highway is a key transport route connecting the regional city of Mackay to the mining and agricultural areas of Central Queensland. Eton Range is used heavily by oversize vehicles servicing mining and agricultural industries, as well as general motorists travelling to and from work centres. 

The Eton Range Realignment Project upgrades the existing range crossing to 2 lanes in each direction, with a split carriageway for part of the range. The project reduces the current grade to improve safety for heavy vehicles and introduces other measures to help control approach and departure speeds.

Benefits

  • Improves safety
  • Increases capacity
  • Improves network efficiency
  • Increases traffic flow
  • Reduces peak hour congestion
  • Better road access
  • Reduces travel time
  • Contributes to economy
  • Contributes to regional growth
  • Reduces maintenance
  • Improves ride quality

Key features

  • Provide 4 lanes, with 2 lanes in each direction. 
  • Widens the crossing bottom of the range and realigns the top section to provide a split carriageway.  
  • Separates of traffic lanes. 
  • Increases road safety and a reduces in road closures due to traffic incidents. 
  • Accommodates type 1 road trains. 
  • Reduces in gradient. 
  • Increases capacity and efficiencies for current and future traffic levels. 

Funding

The project is jointly funded by the Australian and Queensland governments. 

Total investment
$189.26 million
Australian Government
$166.17 million
Queensland Government
$23.09 million

Current status

We are finalising construction.

Works still in progress include: the construction of a rest area and lookout; the finalisation of signage; landscaping and rehabilitation of the work site area.

Overhead side view of works
The new downhill lanes (towards Mackay) on top of the completed Reinforced Earth Embankment
Overhead view of works
Part of the new downhill lanes, looking towards Nebo

Sustainability

Before construction, it was identified that koalas were on Eton Range and the project may impact on the population. In September 2015 the Federal Department of the Environment determined the Eton Range Realignment Project a controlled action under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) due to potential significant impacts on koalas (EPBC Ref 2015/7552).  

In December 2015 the Department of Transport and Main Roads then supplied the Australian Department of the Environment with preliminary documentation outlining how the department plans to mitigate these impacts. 

In March 2016 the Department of Environment granted the project approval with conditions under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

EPBC Act Compliance Reports

Condition 16 of the approval requires the department to prepare and publish an annual report that addresses compliance with each of the conditions of the approval. 

Mitigation strategies

Koala research project

We engaged Koala Research CQ, hosted by Central Queensland University, to conduct a research project to understand the biology and population dynamics of koalas in Central Queensland’s hinterland ranges. The findings were then used to recommend investment options for installing wildlife barrier, underpasses or other measures along the Peak Downs Highway between Eton and Nebo. 

The study started in August 2016 with field work concluding in August 2018. 

View the fact sheet to read a summary of the research and findings. The final research reports on the koala study are available:  

We put the study recommendations into action by installing barrier fencing at Denison Creek and Stockyard Creek.

Construction of barrier fencing was completed in April 2019 at Denison Creek and at Stockyard Creek in June 2020. This is being monitored to determine its effectiveness. View the Monitoring and Assessment Plan

Design alterations

We altered the design of the road project to incorporate a dedicated fauna underpass to allow animals to safely cross the road without any interaction with traffic. Koala fencing and fauna furniture such as habitat logs are located within the underpass to encourage use by koalas and other animals. 

The construction contractor prepared a specialised Environmental Management Plan to protect the local fauna during construction. Processes included:

  • using specialised fauna spotters to identify koalas and other animals that live in trees, and only removing trees after the animals have vacated  
  • sequential clearing of habitat to minimise stress for wildlife and enable animals to move away from cleared areas.