Transmission Gully project to start next year
Construction on the controversial $1.3b Transmission Gully road link will begin in the second half of next year - and open to traffic in 2020.
Prime Minister John Key confirmed the move at a keynote speech to Wellington's Chamber of Commerce this afternoon.
Key confirmed work on the 27-kilometre road, a key part of the $2.5b "northern corridor" from Levin to Wellington airport, would begin next year.
He emphasised the capital's importance as a transport hub.
"The recent earthquakes have boosted the already-strong case to upgrade routes into and out of the region so it can better cope with such events," he added.
The upgrade will shave 40 minutes off the morning peak travel time from Levin to the capital by 2031, he said. It will also cut road fatalities from 140 to 100 within five years of opening.
And he claims it will create "thousands of new construction jobs".
Key said the preferred bidder will be announced early next year, likely February. The estimate for the project is about $1.3b.
Key got a laugh when he referenced the comments he made earlier in the year about the city in his speech.
"Earlier in the year I made the observation that Wellington has seen a number of corporate head offices leaving.
"While there might be a range of views about that, no one can doubt about the changing shape of Wellington and the development of a range of smart, savvy new companies particularly in the ICT sector.
"Wellington is known for its creative industries, with film, innovation, and creative design all well represented here. Wellington is a thriving city for education."
Despite his enthusiasm for the project, there was still strong opposition to it..
The route also lies on a fault line.
Others say the money should be spent on upgrading a rail link.
A public-private partnership will maintain and operate the link for up to 25 years.
The Dominion Post