Less disruption, less fuel consumption, reduced emissions and less noise from trucks are just some of the reasons for building the Kapiti expressway, freight companies say.
But the main reason was that the economy would benefit from goods being moved faster around the country, said Ken Shirley, Road Transport Forum New Zealand CEO.
Mr Shirley delivered his message to the board hearing submissions on the NZ Transport Agency's consent application for a $630 million expressway between McKays Crossing and Peka Peka yesterday.
Asked why he thought a four-lane expressway was better than the two-lane Western Link Rd alternative, Mr Shirley said it was about future-proofing the economic value of our roads, not blindly pouring money into them.
"We're opposed to gold-plating, it's a constant point we make to the NZTA," he said. "The fact is, the pavement will always need replacing over time . . . the key thing is to get the structure, bridges and culverts up to a standard that is fit for purpose."
The amount of freight travelling around the country each year was predicted to increase from 154 million tonnes in 2006 to 270 million tonnes by 2031.
About 90 per cent of that would be by road, Mr Shirley said.
The Wellington region needed a four-lane expressway to handle that efficiently.
When asked by board member Mark Apeldoorn what local benefits the expressway would have, Mr Shirley said the Wellington region was predicted to be at the "lower end" in terms of seeing more freight.
"The bulk of the increase in freight will be in the ‘Golden Triangle' of Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga," he said.
"But the Wellington region, while quite minor, is still critical in terms of inter-regional connectivity, in particular the Auckland to Christchurch link."
Several Kapiti business owners supported Mr Shirley's view.
David Swann, who owns an IT business, said traffic incidents regularly closed State Highway 1 for hours, causing his business to suffer.
But Gregory Bodnar, of pedestrian advocacy group Living Streets Aotearoa, said reducing congestion could encourage more cars on to the road - a phenomenon known as "induced traffic".
As a result, the number of public transport users and pedestrians would fall, making the remaining pedestrians less safe, he said. "If parents don't feel their kids are going to be safe walking along that [expressway], they will take their kids to school some other way . . . by driving them."
The hearing continues today.
Commuters may experience delays travelling into Wellington over the next six weeks.
The speed limit over a 150-metre stretch of State Highway 1 at Paekakariki has been reduced from 70kmh to 50kmh to allow NZ Transport Authority workers to reseal the surface.
NZTA operations manager Mark Owen said that drivers should allow time for potential delays in the area.
"We'll be carrying the work out overnight because this reduces disruption, but there will be speed restrictions during the day."
NZTA spokesman Anthony Frith said that delays from the roadworks had been minor so far.
- The Dominion Post
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