Fast trip from Petone to Tawa

SHANE COWLISHAW AND ALEX FENSOME
Last updated 05:00 13/02/2014
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Details of the proposed link road from Petone to Grenada North have been revealed, promising motorists a quicker route but leaving residents in its path fuming.

The road, which has been mooted for years, will cut travel time between the Hutt Valley and Porirua, take traffic off the dangerous Haywards Hill road and provide an alternative route if Ngauranga Gorge is blocked in a disaster.

It is estimated peak-time travel between the regions will be 10 minutes quicker, with seven kilometres sliced from the trip.

Details of the road, released by the New Zealand Transport Agency, show a large double roundabout interchange to be built in Petone.

The route will head north towards Grenada North, with one option seeing it veer through Takapu Valley where it will connect with Transmission Gully, while a second option would involve widening State Highway 1 at Tawa.

Both routes are aimed at drawing traffic away from State Highway 58 over Haywards Hill, where a 28-year-old man was killed in a head-on crash yesterday.

Transport Agency Wellington highways manager Rod James said connecting the Hutt Valley, Porirua and Tawa would create a more close-knit region, improve road safety and strengthen the economy.

By opening up a link road, moving freight would be simpler by providing a direct connection between the key distribution centres of Seaview and north Wellington.

"It will also provide work opportunities by making it more feasible for people to work in one centre and live in another.

"If we reduce the travel distance between these economic centres, then it's cheaper and quicker to do business. This means jobs, growth and a more competitive region."

The intended time savings would make the route popular, and it had to be designed to cope with the load, but the public's view would be listened to closely, he said.

Each of the two proposed routes is expected to affect about 40 properties, and Takapu Valley residents have been vocal since discovering the plan late last month.

Landowner Stephen Mulholland, whose property would be split in two, said NZTA was presenting the Tawa-Takapu options as integral to the link project, but it was just a last-minute add-on.

He questioned whether the road would help traffic get between Petone and Grenada North any quicker. "The [link] is supposed to fix the queues at Ngauranga by diverting Hutt traffic early - but to get on to the [link] from SH1 at Grenada, you will now need to go through roundabouts," he said.

"That means we're replacing the current queues at Ngauranga Gorge with new epic queues at the Grenada roundabouts."

Tawa resident Brian Delaney - whose Cecil Rd home of 40 years would be destroyed if the widening option went ahead - said he was hoping and praying the agency chose the Takapu Valley route.

KEY POINTS - ROUTE OPTIONS

The link road between Petone and Grenada North has the potential to reduce congestion on State Highways 1 and 2 and will cut 7 kilometres from the trip between the Hutt Valley and Porirua, saving 10 minutes.

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It will provide another route to and from the Hutt Valley or Wellington when either of the highways is blocked, by crashes or natural disasters.

A large double roundabout interchange will be built at Petone, requiring the demolition of several buildings. It will replace the current overbridge and improve the merger on to SH2.

Either a road through the Takapu Valley or a widening of existing SH1 in Tawa has been suggested. Maintenance costs for both are expected to be similar.

The route will join with the proposed Transmission Gully road north of Porirua, with traffic to use the link road rather than SH58.

WHAT LOCAL LEADERS SAY

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown: "This is the start of the process and NZTA are looking at the options for the area, and it's well worth a look. Council's Northern Growth Management Framework, adopted in 2003, included investigations of a Petone to Grenada link and there was public consultation about the changes to the District Plan in the years subsequent to this . . . We're looking forward to hearing what people think."

Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett: "I think the last week of traffic disruption and accidents demonstrates to residents of the region why an airport-to-Levin roading solution with a good east-west connection is vital for us all to improve safety and guarantee travel at peak times. We will support the option that has the most positive impact on Porirua and the wider region's economic future."

Lower Hutt Mayor Ray Wallace: "I certainly acknowledge the real benefits the proposed new route would provide Hutt City and the wider region - in particular improved connectivity and the flow-on economic benefits this could bring. It's important, though, for me to hear what our community thinks about the proposal and, as the Transport Agency starts consultation, I urge the people of Hutt City to have their say."

Greater Wellington Regional Council chairwoman Fran Wilde: "Hutt City accounts for almost 50 per cent of the region's total industrial floor space, yet recent statistics show it is below the regional average in GDP and employment growth.

"Porirua has higher GDP and job growth but is registering a decline in business numbers.

"Frustrated commuters travelling into and out of Wellington city will also find the new east-west road will alleviate congestion on SH1 around Ngauranga Gorge."

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Information days will be held on February 22 in Petone and February 26 in Tawa, with community feedback sought during the next six weeks.

A route will be chosen later this year.

Resource Management Act applications are expected to be lodged in the later part of 2015.

Construction should begin in 2019 and be completed in 2024.

- The Dominion Post

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