The community spoke, and the New Zealand Transport Agency has listened.
The organisation announced yesterday New Plymouth's Vickers to City upgrade will now include a continuous four-lane highway from Bell Block to Hobson St.
Its original plan had three lanes, one lane running into the city from Vickers Rd to Northgate, and one lane for northbound traffic between Hobson St and Northgate.
Concerns were raised by the Road Transport Association, New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young, and the public, that three lanes would not be enough to achieve free-flowing traffic. NZTA regional highway manager David McGonigal said the feedback had been crucial to its final decision.
"We did a lot of listening at the public information days, and people told us loud and clear they think a four-lane highway is what will serve this growing city's needs best.
"The project was initially future-proofed to potentially allow for four-laning at a later stage. We've now established if we invest in the future now, we can bring those benefits forward without needing to revisit the project at greater cost and disruption years down the track."
The decision was music to the ears of regional Road Transport Association spokesman Tom Cloke, who criticised the original plan for having a shelf-life of just 10 years, and had proposed a cycle lane be ditched to allow for a fourth lane.
The new plan includes a cycle lane on each side.
"Everything NZTA have said is exactly what we have been saying for the last few months. They've also addressed the cyclists, which was one of our main concerns."
Mr Cloke said he was now 100 per cent confident the project would be a worthwhile investment for the city.
Mr Young was also full of praise.
"I'm very pleased NZTA have been responsive to the community.
"This will ensure we have free-flowing traffic and don't end up with the same congestion after doing the initial work. Well done NZTA for listening."
NZTA have purchased extra land from KiwiRail to allow for the project, meaning residents along the stretch of road will not have any further impact on their properties than already outlined.
The purchase of the land, as well as additional costs associated with structuring the new lane, has increased the cost of the project from about $15 million, to $16m.
Mr McGonigal said although the cost had risen, the benefits would be well worth it.
"The increased capacity of the highway through Waiwhakaiho and into the city will make a difference to journeys that people will notice every day," he said.
"We can also unlock bigger benefits to Taranaki's pivotal freight industry by making their journeys more efficient and reducing the cost of getting goods to market."
It had always been important to include cycle lanes, he said, as cyclists were an important part of the transport community these days.
"There's only three cities in New Zealand that have been recognised as ‘model communities' for cycling. New Plymouth is deservedly one of them.
"We need to plan transport infrastructure in the spirit of embracing cyclists," he said.
Work on the Vickers to City upgrade is scheduled to get under way early next year.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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