The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) yesterday announced a move to protect land east of Woodend for a future bypass, laying more than 50 years of community uncertainty to rest.
NZTA state highway manager Colin Knaggs said the body would now lodge an application with the Waimakariri District Council to get the route designated for a bypass under the district plan, starting the planning and public consultation process, although there are no plans to build the road in the next 15 years.
A designated Woodend bypass route was set aside in the 1960s, but this was uplifted in the 1990s when NZTA's predecessor, Transit, was unable to commit to construction. Since then, discussions between the roading authority and the council have continued to investigate options for steering SH1 traffic around Woodend and provide greater planning certainty for the district.
"Consultations in the last year have shown that the majority of the community want us to reduce the impact the highway has on Woodend - it currently runs through the town, cutting it in two and creating traffic congestion, safety issues and traffic delays, " Mr Knaggs said.
"The only viable alternative to a bypass would be to four-lane the state highway. . . which would result in greater severance of the community, and an even greater impact on the safety of pedestrians and cyclists."
He said the new eastern bypass alignment would likely steer 80 per cent of traffic around the town. Under current use, that would redirect 14,000 vehicles each day, of which about 10 per cent are heavy vehicles. The result would be less traffic congestion, noise and air pollution; improved safety and travel times; and a more efficient and reliable stretch of road.
"This will give the community the certainty it has been looking for and allow controlled development of the area to progress."
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