A $278 million upgrade to improve a dangerous 32km patch on State Highway 2 has been announced.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges confirmed work will commence this year along the ill-fated stretch between Pokeno and the State Highway 25 intersection.

Over the past five years, there have been 18 crashes leading to 34 deaths and serious injuries. The majority of these crashes have been a result of either head-on collisions or vehicles veering off the road.

Plans include increasing the number of lanes on the road. Two lanes will be reserved for motorists headed towards Auckland. A new roundabout will also be added.

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Also in the works are plans for four interchanges separating intercity and local traffic. Median barriers and guard rails will also be added along the popular holiday route to safeguard vehicles from going off the road.

"These upgrades will help ease congestion and improve journey predictability, making a huge difference for the local community, the freight industry and for people travelling north after a weekend on the Coromandel," Mr Bridges said.

The long term goal was to reduce serious crashes by 80 per cent over the next two decades, he said.

The upgrades would also reduce traffic hazards for locals by providing safe access to homes, schools and businesses.

Construction is expected to get underway in 2017/18.