The $2.4 billion Waikato Expressway has reached another milestone with the New Zealand Transport Agency board committing $458 million to complete the Huntly section.
NZTA chief executive Geoff Dangerfield used his visit to Hamilton this week to make the announcement, saying the business case for the 15.4 kilometre section stacked up.
The funding package covers the design and construction of the section.
With funding secured, the agency would now focus on tendering and procurement in the coming months, Dangerfield said.
The agency is expected to award the contract for the section in April next year, with construction timed to start in September.
"The Huntly section is a critical piece and quite a difficult piece," Dangerfield said. Huntly and Hamilton are two big sections in money terms.
"The Huntly section has always been quite an expensive part of the project because it's got quite a lot of earthworks to be done as you go around the back of Taupiri."
Construction of the estimated $790m Hamilton section is also expected to start next year.
The designation of the Hamilton section is subject to final confirmation.
The Government has committed itself to finishing the entire Waikato Expressway by 2019 and Dangerfield was confident the project would deliver on its transport objectives.
The expressway aims to cut travel times between Auckland and Tirau by 35 minutes as well as reduce fatal and serious injury crashes on State Highway 1.
"What the region is getting is a well-designed, modern dual two-lane separated highway with hardly any side intrusion. That's the safest sort of road network we can deliver," Dangerfield said.
"We will get the safety benefits out of it, the travel time savings and reliability and it will fundamentally change how Hamilton thinks about itself and its connection with Auckland."
There was already evidence that businesses were shifting to Hamilton to take advantage of the roading network and avoid the expenses associated with South Auckland.
NZTA Waikato Bay of Plenty regional director Harry Wilson said the agency's investment in the region reflected Waikato's significant contribution to the national economy.
The region was also critical to how freight moved in the upper North Island.
Dangerfield said improving New Zealand's productivity meant enhancing the road network but also getting larger trucks on the road carrying more freight.
The agency has signalled that enabling high-productivity motor vehicles (HPMVs) on to roads was a key focus.
The 50MAX HPMVs are longer than the standard 44-tonne trucks and have nine axles in order to operate at 50 tonnes total weight.
HUNTLY SECTION OF THE WAIKATO EXPRESSWAY
Estimated cost: $458 million.
Construction to start next year and be completed by 2019.
15.4km of four-lane median divided highway.
Features nine bridges including one over the North Island Main Trunk rail line.
The section will pass through two Conservation Department reserves – the Lake Kimihia Wildlife Management Reserve and the Taupiri Scientific Reserve.
- Waikato Times