The big fix
Highlands Highway under repair
Work on the ‘most critical’ 90-kilometre section of the Highlands Highway will begin later this year, under an ambitious 10-year repair and maintenance program funded by the Asian Development Bank.
The Works Department recently advertised for expressions of interest from road building companies to gauge interest in the US$1 billion (PGK3.2 billion) project. The aim is to once and for all make PNG’s main arterial route, the Highlands Highway, a truly international quality highway.
Works Department secretary, David Wereh, says he is excited by the project because it is “workable and has long-term funding”.
The funding will come from the Asian Development Bank’s proposed Sustainable Highlands Highway Investment Program, aimed at ensuring that the 430-kilometres of two-lane highway from Lae to Mount Hagen is rehabilitated, upgraded and effectively maintained.
“Of all the roads we have in the country, the Highlands Highway is the most important,” says Wereh.
By the end of this year, we should have a number of key contracts going out and construction work started.
“It services three-quarters of the population. All the major mining and petroleum projects are located in the region.”
Seven hundred kilometres overall, the highway begins in Lae, travels through the Markham Valley, then climbs over the 1500-metre-high Kassam Pass to the Eastern Highlands capital, Goroka.
It then goes over the 2478-metre-high Daulo Pass, through Jiwaka Province to the Western Highlands provincial capital Mount Hagen, before splitting into two.
One branch goes through the Southern Highlands’ capital, Mendi, finishing at Tari; the other goes through the Enga provincial capital, Wabag, before finishing at the Porgera gold mine.
For most of its length, the Highlands Highway is no more than a single carriageway two-lane road, full of pot-holes and prone to landslides.
Wereh says the plan is to start drawing down immediately about PGK1 billion for the most critical 90-kilometre section, which runs from the Daulo Pass in Chimbu, going through to the Jiwaka– Chimbu border.
“By the end of this year, we should have a number of key contracts going out and construction work started.”
Maintenance of the road is a key part of the package, says Wereh.
He says the 10-year plan will see various sections of the road being built simultaneously, rather than working from one end to the other.
The long and winding road … a stretch of the 700- kilometre Highlands Highway near Tari.