The emergence of the Surat Basin region as a major energy producer is helping to spur the long-term overhaul of Queensland's chief east-west freight artery.

The opening stage of the $635 million overhaul of the Warrego Highway has commenced, with work beginning on the duplication of the motorway section between Toowoomba and Oakey in southeastern Queensland.

The initial phase of the Warrego Highway upgrade will see a total of $110 million spent on the creation of two lanes running in either direction for a span of 5.7 kilometres, as well as the construction of a grade-separate intersection at Troys Road, the installation of traffic signals, and the realignment of intersection of Charlton Pinch Rd and Gowrie Junction Rd.

Seymour Whyte Constructions is undertaking the upgrade work, which is scheduled for completion by the end of 2016.

Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss touted the benefits of the highway section upgrade given an anticipated doubling of vehicle traffic in the upcoming two decades.

“This section of the highway carries more than 15,000 vehicles each day, which is set to increase to 30,000 over the next 20 years,” said Truss. “These upgrades will improve safety on this section of the highway by providing separation between opposing traffic streams, intersection upgrades and new turning lanes to provide safe turning opportunities.”

Federal Member for Groom Ian Macfarlane said that overhaul will provide a significant boost to the state economy by facilitating the transportation of goods and commodities produced inland to the coast.

“The Warrego Highway is a vital connection between southern Queensland’s agricultural and resource regions and the Port of Brisbane, and every dollar spent on this project will return to the economy more than five times the cost of our investment,” Macfarlane said.

“The upgrade will ease congestion for commuters and freight operators alike, making the journey in and out of Toowoomba much easier and safer.”

The Warrego Highway is Queensland’s primary east-west freight artery, running for a length of over 700 kilometres and serving to connect the south-western part of the state to major coastal centres.

Freight and passenger traffic on the highway is expected to surge in upcoming decades, particularly given the emergence of the Surat Basin as a major coal and coal seam gas producer, resulting in a projected population increase in the region of as much as 95,000 by 2031.

The Federal government has pledged $508 million in funding to the overall upgrade package for the Warrego Highway, providing $88 million to the opening stage of the project, with the remaining $22 million delivered by the Queensland state government.

Given expectations of the Surat Basin region’s growing economic importance, the Queensland government has outlined a two decade upgrade strategy for the Warrego Highway in order to raise safety and efficiency levels. Key goals include lane expansions, rehabilitation of ageing pavements and structures, and addressing the issue of sections that are likely to become increasingly flood-prone in future.