Capital's Mt Vic needs second tunnel, urges mayor

Last updated 00:00 01/01/2009
CAMPAIGN TRAIL: Former MP Bill Young campaigned, with his wife Joan, for a second Mt Victoria tunnel in 1969. A pilot tunnel, built near the present tunnel, was blocked in 1973 when a proposed extension was shelved.

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An ambitious $250 million plan to build new tunnels beneath Mt Victoria and The Terrace is being pushed as a solution to Wellington's traffic woes.

Mayor Kerry Prendergast is adamant at least one tunnel needs to be built to counter the ever-increasing congestion.

"I think there are some [things] we have to do," she told The Dominion Post.

"We have some pinch points and they are two of them. This is genuine."

The tunnel plan is one of several measures included in stage two of the Ngauranga to Airport Strategic Study, being issued for public consultation today by Transit New Zealand, Greater Wellington regional council and the city council.

It is the first time new Terrace and Mt Victoria tunnels have been given serious consideration in almost 10 years - and public feedback could still bury them.

Ms Prendergast said a new Mt Victoria tunnel should be a high priority, regardless of what submitters to the study say.

The tunnels are likely to be the most contentious options put out for consultation. Other initiatives include improving the bus system, investing in light rail, improving access around the Basin Reserve and widening Adelaide Rd.

People will be asked which transport measures they prefer and why.

A second Mt Victoria tunnel has been on the cards since the early 1970s, when a pilot tunnel was blasted parallel to the present one as part of a planned motorway extension. It was blocked in 1973.

A second Terrace tunnel was proposed in the 1980s, but the plan died over cost concerns.

Independent MP Gordon Copeland, who lives in Miramar, has been pushing for a new Mt Victoria tunnel for three years. "It's a piece of cake, with modern equipment, to put that tunnel through."

About 40,000 vehicles use the present tunnel each day, with some intersections along the State Highway 1 route to the airport carrying five times as much traffic as they were designed for.

The regional council has earmarked $90 million for projects between Ngauranga and the airport. Ms Prendergast said a package of improvement initiatives would probably cost $650 million.

 

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- The Dominion Post

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