Palmerston Highway’s post-cyclone road to recovery finds the fast lane

As engineering efforts go, reopening a road inside five weeks after a 16-kilometre section of said road was buried under 4,200 tonnes of earth is, to say the least, quite impressive.

Factoring in remoteness of location and the vast logistical challenges at play only makes the outcome more substantial.

Landslips caused by the torrential downpours of ex-Tropical Cyclone Jasper cut many roads in Far North Queensland, including Palmerston Highway – a vital link for the region that connects Innisfail with the southern Atherton Tablelands.

Freight movements make up a significant amount of the highway’s traffic, with Atherton famers relying on the stretch of road to get their produce to market.

Following the record rainfall associated with Jasper, the section of Palmerston Highway between Crawford’s Lookout and Junction Road became impassable, buried under a mountain of mud, rocks and other debris.

The damage was significant – the entire hill where the road featured had sunk two metres and shifted anther two metres sidewards.

Against the odds and ahead of schedule, a single lane section on the Palmerston Highway reopened Saturday 10 February 2024.

Re-opening the highway was a priority for Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) crews who literally dug deep to make one lane of the highway available to keep communities in the region connected and the local economy moving.

Heavy rain and surface instability combined to delay the start of the roadworks until 8 January.

Once the ground dried out sufficiently and work could safely begin, TMR crews set about building a single lane section of road as a temporary solution.

After removing the mud and debris, getting the traffic moving again meant laying down 5,400 tonnes of rock, 1,500 tonnes of road base, 150 tonnes of asphalt and 60 lengths of stormwater pipe.

The final stage of construction saw a fresh seal of asphalt laid on 8 February, in time for the single lane’s opening on 10 February.

Although the single lane is open to all traffic, including heavy vehicles, it remains a temporary fix, with TMR investigating long-term solutions for repairs to Palmerston Highway.

For up-to-date information about works on Queensland’s state-controlled network, including current warnings and closures, call 13 19 40 or visit