New Plymouth is grateful for the overhaul of its arterial road but Government commitment to the region should not stop there, the deputy mayor says.
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee, New Zealand Transport Agency regional highways manager David McGonigal, deputy mayor Heather Dodunski and local MP Jonathan Young joined other dignitaries and iwi as the first sod was turned on the Vickers to City project yesterday.
The ceremony marked the start of a complete overhaul of the main route in and out of New Plymouth which will result in improved capacity, safety and new pedestrian and cycling facilities along more than 2km of State Highway 3 between Vickers Rd and the city.
The project involves two new bridges, better on- and off-road cycle routes, and upgrades to seven intersections.
Brownlee turned the first sod as a crowd looked on, huddled under umbrellas on a typically wet and windy winter Taranaki day.
"I can assure you it's never this cold in Canterbury," he said.
Brownlee said Taranaki boasted some of the most encouraging economic growth in the country, with one of the fastest expanding regional economies since 2007.
"We recognise that Taranaki is helping to lead the way as our nation's economy continues to grow, and we'll make even swifter headway when this major bottleneck is removed."
Dodunski congratulated the number of people who stood their ground and kept fighting for the development to happen.
Taranaki was thriving and this should not be forgotten, she said. "We acknowledge contributions from the Government but we always want to make sure you are aware we will expect ongoing financial commitment to our region."
McGonigal said the upgrade would mean shorter trips, fewer crashes, and the luxury of having a much clearer idea of how long trips will take.
The project will also improve walking and cycling facilities, allowing cyclists to use dedicated on- and off-road facilities along the highway.
The second bridge at Waiwhakaiho would mean that if one bridge was blocked by a crash, traffic could be diverted.
Construction of the Vickers to City project is due to be completed in early 2016.
- Taranaki Daily News