MP accidentally lets slip news of major bridge development

MATT RILKOFF
Last updated 05:00 24/11/2012
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Jonathan Young

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Taranaki's roading top brass have been caught on the hop by National MP Jonathan Young's botched announcement of a new bridge for Waiwhakaiho.

New Plymouth's most awaited traffic news in decades, the five-stage $15 million Vickers Rd to City development, was due to be officially announced on Wednesday.

But yesterday Mr Young mistakenly included the news on his blog, Jonathan's Journal, forcing the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) to bring the announcement forward. Not everyone had time to catch up.

Road Transport Association regional manager Tom Cloke said NZTA state highways manager David McGonigal had yesterday arranged an urgent meeting on Monday to discuss the plan in the wake of the release slip-up.

"To that end I really don't know what's in it and he didn't elaborate," Mr Cloke said.

"I would like to talk with him before I comment. I can't say anything because I have got nothing."

Mr Cloke said he did not believe NZTA had finished planning for the project and his questions would focus on the time frames and funding commitment for the work.

Regional Transport Committee chairman Roger Maxwell was also surprised to be getting a call from the Taranaki Daily News yesterday.

"But the sooner it's done the better because the initial indication is we are looking at getting the lion's share of the $19 million we have in regional roading funds. Until they get final costings on the project, no other capital works can take place," he said.

Mr Maxwell said he believed there was still a lot of planning work to do before contracts could be sent out and tenders sought, but the estimate of $15m sounded about right.

However, if money could be saved on that it would free cash for other Taranaki highway projects, such as passing lanes and intersection improvements.

"Sharp pencils when it comes to contracts are a very good thing," Mr Maxwell said.

New Plymouth deputy mayor Alex Matheson said the announcement, though surprising, was welcome.

"‘It will relieve a lot of the concern people had travelling north out of the city. We all know what it's like. We have all experienced jams there."

The news of the bridge was greeted with enthusiasm by motorists waiting at the Waiwhakaiho lights yesterday.

"The sooner the better. It's just dynamite down here. Coming from town you have to wait through three sets of lights sometimes, and now it is getting bad coming the other way," Lyn Luond said.

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Trevor Westbury said anything that eased the bottleneck had to be good.

- Taranaki Daily News

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