Environmental OK for 'holiday highway'
The billion dollar highway from Puhoi to Wellsford has come another step closer with the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) formally accepting the proposal from the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA).
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee has welcomed the EPA'S acceptance of the proposal, saying it was a significant step forward for a vital link between Northland and Auckland.
The highway is expected to come at a cost of $1.76 billion with a cost-benefit ratio of 1.0, according to the transport agency - meaning its economic benefits would be neutral.
The cost of the project has been criticised in the past and the project has been dubbed the "holiday highway" due to the popularity of the route with Aucklanders holidaying up north.
But Brownlee said it was vital for the economic development in the northern region.
"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," he said.
The NZTA proposal for the route is now available to view online, though public submissions for the project are unlikely to open until later this year.
"The NZ Transport Agency has made this information available now in an effort to keep the community fully informed as this project progresses," Brownlee said.
NZTA state highways manager for Auckland and Northland Tommy Parker has previously said an average of 19,700 cars travelled between Puhoi and Warkworth every day.
That figure was expected to rise to 31,300 by 2026.
Now the EPA had formally accepted the proposal, the environment and conservation ministers would decide on the appropriate consenting process to consider the application.
NZTA hoped construction of the road would begin next year.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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