A SECTION of an important road freight route in Far North Queensland is reopening after ex-Tropical Cyclone Jasper tore through the region in December.

The Captain Cook Highway closed between Ellis Beach and Port Douglas last month.

The section is due to re-open at 0800 on Saturday 20 January, weather and construction conditions permitting.

But the state government told drivers to expect single lane closures initially, and noted only essential travel should be taken along the route.

Construction of a temporary single-lane section began this week on the Palmerston Highway between Crawford’s Lookout and Junction Road to accommodate heavy vehicles.

Queensland transport and main roads minister Bart Mellish said the opening followed a “massive effort” from crews over the Christmas and New Year period.

“Approximately 30,000 tonnes of mud and debris have been removed from the road,” he said.

Mr Mellish said there are more than 15 trucks and heavy vehicles working on the site, making about 100 trips each day to dispose of the debris.

“We have approximately 100 personnel and 65 pieces of machinery on site, including personnel from 10 local civil and construction companies,” he said.

“The Palmerston Highway suffered significant damage with major pavement slips occurring. This will unfortunately mean unavoidable long-term closures of this road to enable significant repairs.

“We understand the significant impact this is having on heavy vehicle operators and the agricultural industry, so in addition to providing temporary permits for an alternative route we are fast-tracking work to restore access on Palmerston Highway.

“TMR is continuing to investigate long-term solutions for repairs to Palmerston Highway.”

Barron River MP Craig Crawford said crews had “performed a herculean task” to clear the Captain Cook Highway.

“The re-opening of the Captain Cook Highway to Port Douglas, and construction of a single lane along the Palmerston Highway are significant steps in reconnecting our freight and tourism industries,” he said.

And member for Cook Cynthia Lui said the volume of work already done by crews was phenomenal.

“As well as addressing these big challenges on the roads themselves, the crews in the TMR offices are working with affected residents, groups and businesses to facilitate access to difficult areas so that people can maintain their businesses, survey damage, and plan for the future,” she said.

“The Captain Cook Highway and Palmerston Highway are such important ‘arteries’ for people, businesses, agriculture and tourism in the Far North and huge efforts are going into re-opening access safely as soon as we can.”