The government has announced the preferred tenderer for the $1.6 billion Toowoomba Second Range Crossing in the south of Queensland.

Minister for infrastructure and regional development Warren Truss said that Nexus Infrastructure has been selected as the preferred tenderer for the transportation megaproject that will create a second highway across the Great Dividing Range.

Key features of Nexus Infrastructure’s proposed design for the project include a 30 metre cutting at the top of the range, instead of the tunnel solution outlined by the reference design, and a 800 metre viaduct constructed over the Queensland Rail line.

According to Federal member for Groom Ian Macfarlane the use of the open cut solution in lieu of a tunnel will permit larger trucks and dangerous goods vehicles to make use of the crossing, and thus remove them from Toowoomba streets.

The route for the project will run for a distance 43 kilometres, including 41 kilometres of bypass, 30 bridges, 9 interchanges, 9 creek crossings and 4 viaducts.

The crossing will include two lanes running each way from Warrego Highway East Interchange at Helidon to Warrego Highway West, as well as grade separated interchanges at Warrego Highway West, Toowoomba-Cecil Plains road and Gore Highway.

The project is expected to take three years to complete, with construction work slated to commence towards the end of this year and conclude in late 2018.

The Toowoomba Second Range Crossing will be a toll road, with operating details to be determined at a date closer to its official opening.

The Queensland government expects the new highway to improve driver safety, freight efficiencies as well as traffic and congestion in the Toowoomba urban area, by providing an alternative means of crossing the Great Dividing Range by road.

The existing crossing is approaching capacity, as well as suffers from problems including sharp gradients and difficult turns in certain areas.

The new crossing will bypass 16 sets of traffic lights, and slash travel times across Toowoomba and the Great Dividing Range by as much as 40 minutes.

The project is expected to be a boon for the regional economy, with Nexus expressing its commitment to maximizing the participation of local industry, and Queensland treasurer Curtis Pitt expecting it to generate 1800 full time equivalent jobs during the construction phase.