Travel between Porirua and the Hutt Valley may get quicker, but don't expect it to be free.
The New Zealand Transport Agency is exploring the possibility of tolling motorists on the proposed Petone to Grenada North link road, details of which it announced yesterday.
Two options were proposed, one involving a path through Takapu Valley, while the other would see State Highway 1 widened at Tawa.
The road, which has been discussed for several years, will cut travel time between the Hutt Valley and Porirua, provide an alternative route to Ngauranga Gorge, and divert traffic away from the Haywards Hill road.
An agency brochure on the proposed route says an important issue to be considered is how it will be funded.
One option is to introduce an automated electronic toll, with early assessments suggesting that the route would be a "good tolling prospect" because of the significant time savings and expected high traffic volumes, it says.
There is only one fully electronic toll road in New Zealand at present - the Northern Gateway road north of Auckland, on which cars and motorcycles are charged $2.20 a trip and heavy vehicles pay $4.40.
A second electronic toll road, the Tauranga eastern link road, is expected to open in 2016.
NZTA Wellington highways manager Rod James said tolling was considered as an option for funding all new state highways, particularly if it could bring forward the start date, and it was possible that both the link road and Transmission Gully could be tolled.
AA spokesman Mike Noon said there was a requirement for a free alternative route when a toll road was introduced, with the current state highways providing this option if the link road were built.
If the toll was reasonable, it would be supported by motorists, who would be happy to pay in return for a quicker, safer route, he said.
"We would look at how much the toll would be, but straight off the bat, if that's the difference between having great infrastructure and not getting the infrastructure, then it's an easy decision really."
One commuter who would benefit from the road is healthcare worker Raymond Green, who makes the trip from his home in the Lower Hutt suburb of Maungaraki to Porirua every day.
Each one-way trip takes 30 minutes and it costs about $100 in petrol a week.
Mr Green said the trip was so long and expensive that he had considered moving closer to his workplace. If the new road shaved 10 minutes from a one-way trip it would be fantastic, although any savings in petrol would have to be balanced by the price of a toll.
"If it reduces traffic time, it would be great. I mean seven kilometres is quite a lot to save on a daily basis."
But Green Party transport spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter said 7km was not enough of a saving to justify building another new road.
Any toll would be unlikely to pay for the costs of the link road, with motorists unwilling to pay a high price each trip.
She claimed the Northern Gateway toll was barely covering the costs of collecting the money.
"I have no doubt the Petone to Grenada link road would be the same. If they did toll it, they couldn't toll it high enough and keep people using it.
"I just can't believe that NZTA is throwing so much money on new roads in 2014 in Wellington when it's obvious car use has peaked."
A better option would be to improve public transport links, cycle routes and the existing roads' safety, she said.
- The Dominion Post
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