Planning and designing a modern road is a complex task that requires innovative designers capable of improving connectivity at an individual and a city scale through effective and sustainable transport solutions.

SMEC’s award-winning work over two years on the large-scale upgrade of the Ipswich Motorway (Dinmore to Goodna), one of the busiest motorways in Queensland, improved connectivity for multiple thriving South East Queensland communities. The highway is a major freight transport link supplying goods to the city of Brisbane and access to the Port of Brisbane.


Planning for the upgrade of the more than 150-year-old motorway began in the early 2000’s when it became clear that it was not keeping pace with increasing commuter and freight demands. A major upgrade was required to reduce congestion, increase capacity, improve the motorway’s poor safety record and provide more travel options for residents. In 2008, the Origin Alliance was established to manage the myriad of asset and development stages. SMEC and its partners provided full design services, from preliminary concept through to final design and through the construction phase of the project.


The upgrade required widening the motorway to three lanes each way, with capacity to increase these to four in the future. Three new service roads, seven pedestrian and cycling bridges, and 25km of bicycle and pedestrian paths were built to take local traffic off the motorway, improve connectivity and provide more transport options.

bridge piles
of shared pedestrian and cycleways
created during construction
The quality of work has been acknowledged with the project winning more than 20 industry awards.

As one of the lead design firms, SMEC addressed complex challenges including meeting extremely tight deadlines, rebuilding the road during live traffic which involved over 35 major traffic switches, and identifying and rehabilitating abandoned coal mines situated under the road’s planned trajectory. Completing the upgrade has been compared to doing ‘a giant jigsaw puzzle’.

The biggest geotechnical challenge for SMEC was remediating three former coal mines under the Ipswich Motorway. The region has a long and proud history of coal mining, with some mines dating back to 1865. Each mine posed certain challenges: One was flooded with contaminated water while the other two contained large amounts of methane gas. SMEC and its partners successfully undertook what was the largest mine remediation program of its type in Australia.
Design was delivered ahead of time and under budget and included significant variations to the original project scope. The quality of work has been acknowledged with the project winning more than 20 industry awards for its outstanding safety performance, high quality workmanship, effective project management, innovative approach, and unique on-site culture.

It’s satisfying to look back and know that our teams delivered more than ‘just a road’. Beyond the asset, this project improved safety and quality of life for the surrounding communities by enabling more transport options for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, reducing congestion, providing safer motorways crossings, and increasing capacity for anticipated growth.


Get in touch with our global specialists to discover how SMEC can assist with the delivery of your next project.