Vickers Rd project kicks off

BLANTON SMITH
Last updated 05:00 09/07/2014
SAM BOON

A ceremony is held to mark the start of the Vickers to City Highway upgrade in New Plymouth.

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An end to the bottlenecks at Waiwhakaiho is now in sight with the $16 million Vickers Rd project set to begin.

After five years of planning, investigation, consents and tendering work, construction will officially start today when Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee turns the first sod.

Gridlocks and congestion have been a bugbear for people for years and have raised concerns about emergency access to the northern side of the bridge.

But the time of frustration was coming to an end now that construction was under way, New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young said.

"For us in New Plymouth, Bell Block and Waitara it will signal the end of an era of bottlenecks and traffic jams," he said.

The project would be completed in a little more than a year, he said.

Young said the Vickers Rd project would include two new bridges, one over the Waiwhakaiho River and one over the Te Henui Stream, as well as double lanes on both sides of the road.

"Residents of New Plymouth and those north of the bridge have been waiting for this for a long time," he said.

Mayor Andrew Judd he was excited the project was finally at the construction stage.

"It's been long overdue. I'm really pleased it's started, it will be great for the city and the district."

The Vickers Rd project along with the Normanby overbridge and improvements to the northern end of State Highway 3 have been on the Regional Transport Committee's wish list since 2009.

Given State Highway 3 was not considered a road of national significance, money for the projects had to come from regional funding and in 2012 there was only enough left in the kitty for one project to be bankrolled.

The Vickers Rd project was given the green light ahead of Normanby, but last month a draft government policy statement proposed that up to $90m a year be allocated to work on regional roads.

Then, in what has been termed an "election year bribe", the Government announced the Normanby project would begin next year on the back of a $10m to $15m cash injection.

It also earmarked $25m for work on Mt Messenger and the Awakino Gorge for 2017.

Young said he would continue lobbying the Government for further upgrades of passing lanes, better driving surfaces, smoother corners in the next decade.

Labour MP Andrew Little said that while he was happy construction was starting, he hoped it would not distract people from the other areas needing attention.

Little said the $25m was not enough for the 100km of road in the north that needed work.

He wanted to see the Government commit more money to fixing the road across a 10-year period.

"Let's get the bridge under way and then get the pressure back on to sort out the north," he said.

"It's the third project in the treble."

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