NZTA puts pedal to metal on expressway

AARON LEAMAN
Last updated 05:00 07/02/2013

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Roading bosses have ruled out introducing a toll to pay for a major section of the Waikato Expressway, saying the funding mechanism "just didn't stack up".

NZ Transport Agency staff gave an overview to Waikato District councillors of work on the $2.4 billion expressway.

More than 90 per cent of the expressway is in the Waikato district.

NZTA's Waikato and Bay of Plenty regional director Harry Wilson said this week that they had reached an "exciting stage" of the project, with work progressing on five sections.

The $194m Te Rapa section opened in December and has delivered travel time savings of about 3.5 minutes during peak traffic times in the mornings and afternoons.

The 8-kilometre section had also reduced traffic on Te Rapa Rd, with motorists saving more than two minutes on their journey along Te Rapa Rd.

Mr Wilson said such savings were not easily achieved and showed the expressway was delivering on its promise to reduce journey times.

The National-led Government has repeated its pledge to finish the Waikato Expressway by 2019.

The $600m-$700m Hamilton section and $420m Huntly section of the expressway are due for completion by 2019.

Replying to questions from Waikato District Deputy Mayor Dynes Fulton, Mr Wilson said there was no intention to use tolling to fund the Huntly section.

He said tolling was typically used to bring a project forward and would require public consultation and hearings.

"Tolling is being used to help fund the Tauranga eastern link. Without tolling it wouldn't have been on the books until 2016. We've looked at tolling for the Huntly section from every angle and it just didn't stack up," Mr Wilson said.

The proposed layout of the Huntly section made it the most obvious section to introduce a toll.

Meanwhile, the bulk of earthworks is now complete on the Ngaruawahia section of the expressway.

The section includes seven spans, with work continuing on the new 140-metre-long bridge over the Waikato River upstream of the Horotiu Bridge.

The majority of structures, with the exception of the new Waikato River bridge, will be substantially complete by the end of summer.

A camera has been erected at the bridge site and is capturing construction which is being streamed live on NZTA's website.

Work on the $105m Rangiriri section started last month with the relocation of services and Transpower lines.

Rangiriri was the site of the historic 1863 battle of Rangiriri, part of the New Zealand land wars.

The project will realign the current State Highway 1 to the west, near the Waikato River, avoiding the historic sites of the Rangiriri Pa and battle trench.

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NZTA Waikato Expressway senior project manager Mercedes Santos said the agency was expecting to announce the successful tender for the Tamahere-Cambridge section in April with construction due to start in September.

Because the Tamahere-Cambridge section was a design and construction contract, the final cost of the section had not been decided.

Ms Santos said work on the investigation phase of the Hamilton section was nearing completion.

A public information day to present the final proposals for the Hamilton project is planned for May or June.

- Waikato Times

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