NZTA-funding refusal delays four-lane ring

The absence of fatal crashes and traffic jams in Ferguson St near Pitt St has dashed Palmerston North's hopes of gaining taxpayer help to complete four-laning of the ring road.

The $1.7 million project to widen Ferguson St from Linton St to Pitt St and install traffic lights at the intersection will be put off for at least three years.

The NZ Transport Agency has refused to pay its $700,000 share of the costs, giving priority to state highways in the main centres.

Mayor Jono Naylor told the council's finance and performance committee meeting yesterday the agency's stance was "an absolute tragedy".

"We have come so far with the ring road.

"This project has been around for the 11 years I have been on council, and we are still not able to get them to fund it."

Mr Naylor said the council needed to keep talking to the agency, explaining what was important to this community.

"The project is not dead. Sooner or later it's going to come back and get us."

Road planning team leader David Lane told the committee the council had used two outside consultants to help argue the case for money for the roadworks, but still found a major arterial route in the city rated little more than a low priority in national terms.

"If there was a higher crash rate, we would get more points. There are not enough crashes, volumes or delays to justify being higher up the pecking order for funding."

Mr Lane said he did not recommend the council go it alone with the project at this stage, but it might want to reconsider that in three years if the transport agency's stance did not change.

It was possible more commercial development in the area by then could drive higher vehicle movements that would make a difference.

Meantime, the council would face some extra costs fixing the footpath on the Intermediate Normal School side of Ferguson St when the laying of new stormwater mains was finished.

The repairs would have been swallowed up by the roadworks project if it had been able to go ahead as hoped.

Some councillors argued a new footpath should be built along the school fence line, further from the road, and in position for when the four-laning eventually went ahead.

Mr Lane said it would not be possible to lay foundations and build a new path that would be compatible with the final design of kerb and channelling and drainage.

Manawatu Standard