Expressway delay could result in 'roads to nowhere'
If the Waikato Expressway is delayed despite Government promises, Hamilton City Council will be spending millions to build "roads to nowhere", according to one of its councillors.
The council yesterday asked the Government to confirm its position on the expressway and mayor Bob Simcock warned if it didn't get reassurance strong action would be taken.
It follows revelations from the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) last week that the Hamilton Bypass would not be completed until 2024-25. This was despite an election year promise in 2008 that the expressway would be completed within 10 years. The council was also concerned to hear that the Huntly Bypass had been given priority to be built ahead of the Hamilton Bypass.
Mayor Bob Simcock said the biggest issue facing the council was that it had brought forward plans to build the Hamilton Eastern Arterial E1 ring road which will run from Wairere Dr through Hamilton East to Cobham Dr prior to the completion of the expressway.
If the expressway was not completed in time, he said, the council would have to reassess its own roading programme at a cost to the city to stop the E1 becoming a "defacto highway".
Councillor Peter Bos was concerned the council was wasting time and money "building roads to nowhere" if the Hamilton Bypass was delayed.
Mr Simcock said if council did not get reassurance from the Government shortly about the expressway's time frame strong action would be taken.
"We want them to confirm the proper order is Hamilton prior to Huntly."
Discussions between Mr Simcock and NZTA within the last week had indicated that it was not the "final answer" and could be reprioritised.
However, NZTA tender documents for further investigation into the Huntly Bypass had recently been issued, while no work on the Hamilton Bypass had been carried out since the Government's announcement in 2008. The Hamilton section is the longest section of the expressway and is estimated to cost between $550 million to $650m, running 21 kilometres from Lake Rd, Horotiu to north of the Tamahere interchange.
Hamilton East MP David Bennett said the order of the Huntly or Hamilton bypasses had not been decided but it was his "gut" feeling Huntly would go first. It wouldn't be decided until design was finished. Transport Minister Steven Joyce told the Waikato Times today the Government was committed to making the expressway "as complete as possible" within 10 years.