Auckland to Whangarei motorway on the cards

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A motorway from Auckland to Whangarei has been flagged by Transport Minister Simon Bridges. Speaking at today’s sod turning to mark the start of the $709.5 million Puhoi to Warkworth motorway, Bridges said over time the motorway would extend to Whangarei, a distance of 162km.

Prime Minister John Key and Bridges turned the first sod during a tour of roading projects north of Auckland, including a new roundabout in the township of Waimaukau. Bridges said the Government had pledged to build a four-lane road of national significance from Puhoi to Wellsford and the entire corridor to Whangarei was very important.

“A lot of people talk about the Brynderwyns and the need for a very strong solution there. “You have got Northport up closer to Whangarei, which is again justification for doing a much more significant job all the way. “Whether that’s to road of national significance standard or something different to that I couldn’t say at the moment … but as Transport Minister I’m very attracted to progress more significant road improvements, not just through to Wellsford but up to Whangarei,” Bridges said.

He said realistically it was not five or six years away, but probably a decade of more away. New Zealand Transport Agency chairman Chris Moller said the agency was looking at the Whangarei to Auckland connection but a motorway could be 30 years away. The Puhoi to Warkworth motorway extends 18.5km over difficult terrain from the Johnstone Hills tunnels just south of Puhoi to just north of Warkworth.

sssCritics have nicknamed it the “holiday highway” to the intense annoyance of Northland leaders. The new motorway will have two lanes in each direction divided by a central median with a safety barrier. Both Bridges and Rodney MP Mark Mitchell stressed the safety benefits of the new motorway. Said Mitchell: “Safety is definitely a No 1 concern. Unfortunately the piece of road we have to use at the moment comes with hazards and we have too many serious injuries and fatal accidents on that piece of road.”

The project is the second public private partnership (PPP) for a state highway, after the Transmission Gully motorway in Wellington. Under the latest PPP, the Northern Express Group will finance, design, construct, manage and maintain the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway for the 25 years following a five-year build. The motorway is due for completion in 2021. Incentives built into the contract will ensure the motorway is one of the safest in New Zealand with lower grades and be more resilient to natural disasters and road closures.

Bridges said a decision had not been made on whether to toll the new Puhoi to Warkworth motorway. Route protection of the next stage of the motorway from Warkworth to Wellsford is underway. The NZ Transport Agency is planning to release an indicative route early next year. The Automobile Association is delighted that construction is officially underway on the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway extension. “Many people from outside Northland don’t understand what a vital step forward this is for us,” AA Northland District Chairman Steve Westgate said. “It’s not just about safer, quicker and more reliable journeys, it’s about the economic opportunities that come with it. This project will improve our connections with Auckland, New Zealand and the world.”

Source:

  • Bernard Orsman
  • NZ Herald

 

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Motorway project given the thumbs up!

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A starting block has been taken away on the 18.5-kilometre, four-lane motorway between Puhoi and Warkworth with construction tipped to start half way through next year.

Northland politicians are cheering the Environmental Protection Authority’s approval of New Zealand Transport Agency’s application to build the $760 million motorway extension.

They say the road is essential to Northland’s growth.

Many critics have dubbed it a “holiday highway” for Aucklanders but the term has rankled Northland advocates.

“I find it offensive,” Northland Regional Council (NRC) chairman Craig Brown said.

“The road is not about Aucklanders going on holiday, it is the life blood of Northland. It is absolutely essential for commerce between this region and the rest of New Zealand and beyond.”

Mr Brown said the decision validated the NRC’s inclusion of the Marsden Point rail corridor in its plans. The road would help open the door to expansion of port and rail development, enhanced tourism and industrial growth in Northland, he said.

The way forward – only to Warkworth at this stage – is still jammed with resource consents, property purchases and geological challenges, with the plans not open for public submissions until at least November.

The 18.5km first stage of the “road of national significance” the Government ultimately wants built to Wellsford will include 12 viaducts and bridges, and is expected to be finished in 2022.

NZTA said average daily traffic volumes south to Puhoi are forecast to increase from 17,400 vehicles to 25,000 by 2026, with an expected 51 per cent increase in freight movements alone to or from Northland by 2031.

“The Puhoi to Wellsford corridor has been identified as one of our most essential state highway routes to reduce congestion, improve safety and support economic growth in the Auckland and Northland regions,” Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said.

Whangarei MP Phil Heatley said the motorway, first proposed back in 2009, will be a key driver of economic growth for Northland.

“A massive consenting process, and property purchases, were always going to be the big hurdle to getting the road construction-ready and I’m pleased it’s finally all under way,” Mr Heatley said.

“The corridor will improve movement of freight and people between Auckland and Northland. And, yes, it brings tourists north. Every dollar our local businesses can squeeze out of an Aucklander is a great dollar.”

NZTA highways manager Tommy Parker said the documents are available online “in the interests transparency”: www.nzta.govt.nz/puhoi-to-warkworth-application.

Source:

  • NZ Herald
  • Lindy Laird
  • Photo: NZ Herald
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