Mayor angry SH58 'ignored' again

Fix up State Highway 58 before looking at "some dream new road" costing $250 million, Upper Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy says.

The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) says the Petone-Grenada Link Road - a proposed six-lane highway up the steep hill just south of Korokoro and eventually linking to Transmission Gully - offers major benefits to the Hutt Valley and wider region.

But Mr Guppy is unconvinced, and had said the proposed link would be the "death" of the Seaview/Gracefield commercial and industrial area as new development land in Grenada North is opened up for warehousing, trucking and hubbing operations.

Jo Draper, NZTA's project manager for the Petone-Grenada Link Road, said a major upgrade of SH58 has been looked at closely.

"We asked the specific question: Could you four-lane State Highway 58 as an alternative [to Petone-Grenada] and achieve the same benefits? The answer was a clear 'no'.

"The main reason is that it's a longer route."

Selwyn Blackmore, NZTA's project manager for roads of national significance, said the proposed link had advantages in its capacity, providing a shorter, more direct east-west route; and for network resilience - it is an alternative route not just in the case of an earthquake, but in emergencies and other disruptions, such as when State Highway 2 has been blocked by a landslide at Horokiwi.

Mr Blackmore said SH58 was still important and would be the focus of safety improvements, including installation of more wire rope median barriers, smoothing of corners and efforts to slow the speed of traffic down to 80kmh.

Consultation on some of those safety improvements is scheduled for later this year, and will involve negotiations with landowners over spots where straightening of the road is key.

Mr Blackmore agrees SH58 will be important once Transmission Gully is built, but as a link road south of the proposed new roundabout at Pauatahanui. Post-Transmission Gully, highway routes around the inlet will be "given back" to Porirua City Council, he said. A long-proposed raised interchange at the Haywards/SH58 corner still has resource consent and may go ahead, but Mr Blackmore said it was "on the backburner" as there were more pressing projects.

NZTA believes a major advantage for Upper Hutt people will be delivered by the proposed raised roundabout at Petone. Similar to the roundabout at Dowse/SH2, it will allow removal of the current Petone overbridge, which Mr Blackmore said offered insufficient clearance for heavy vehicles and was near the end of its useful life. Traffic currently has to slow to negotiate the bend at that spot, and the changes will allow straightening of the highway.

With better merge lanes, particularly from Petone Esplanade, and thousands more vehicles heading up the new Petone- Grenada Link rather than Ngauranga Gorge to go north, congestion on the choked Petone-Ngauranga section of SH2 will be considerably relieved.

But, again, Mr Guppy said he was not convinced.

"The biggest issue for Hutt Valley motorists is Petone to Ngauranga," he said

"While they might have a fancy new roundabout at Petone, no-one has convinced me, or shown me any concrete modelling, that the Petone-Ngauranga problem is solved."

Mr Guppy said the fact SH58 continued to be neglected and ignored was "the most criminal act in the region.

"Talk of creating a new and hugely expensive road at the expense of an existing state highway is absolutely wrong. You can get your east-west connection - and for a lot less money."

Mr Guppy believes an "agenda" for Petone-Grenada has been lurking in the background for years.

"It suddenly appeared on [the] Hutt Corridor [Plan] a few years ago and momentum has gathered... not from modelling or solid evidence but it seems to me from some loose facts to try and fit the picture."

Takapu Valley Rd residents, who are fighting an option for the northern end of the Petone- Grenada Link to go through their rural community to link with Transmission Gully, are claiming the new road will steal business and future rating revenue from the Hutt Valley.

Mr Guppy agrees with them that trucking and other firms will "migrate" to sites opened up by the new link road that are closer to the coast and SH1, "to to the detriment of the valley". Asked if he thought the way Petone- Grenada had become a priority on the region's Land Transport Plan was down to lobbying by Wellington City, Mr Guppy replied: "Well, there seems to be a lot of people from outside the Hutt Valley with an interest in it."

Upper Hutt Leader