Motorists may still have to pay a toll to use Transmission Gully.
The New Zealand Transport Agency was granted permission yesterday to pursue a public-private partnership for the $1.3 billion 27-kilometre, four-lane road planned between Linden and McKays Crossing north of Wellington.
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee says construction could start in 2014, a year earlier than expected, and be completed in 2020 if a private company built the highway.
NZTA chief executive Geoff Dangerfield said tolls would not be specifically linked to the PPP contract, but the agency would still investigate its merits.
"There's been good support for tolling where people can see the benefit of it."
The agency would consult affected communities and stakeholders in the new year about the appropriate level of any toll.
"It's about what is the value of the faster trip on Transmission Gully versus the free alternative."
Under the deal, a private consortium would be responsible for financing, designing, building, maintaining and operating the highway for up to 25 years.
Full ownership would remain with the Crown.
- The Dominion Post
Testing drugs on animals is:Related story: Animal tests 'key' to brain disease cures