In March 2009 Transport Minister Steven Joyce announced a list of projects that the government considered to be Roads of National Significance. These were:
- Puhoi to Wellsford
- Waterview Connection (Auckland Western Ring Route)
- Auckland’s Victoria Park
- Waikato Expressway
- Tauranga Eastern Corridor
- Wellington Northern Corridor
- Christchurch motorway projects.
The Minister stated that these are seven of the most essential routes that require work to reduce congestion, improve safety, and support economic growth.
The Government Policy Statement on Land Transport Funding 2009/10-2018/19 (GPS) states that naming the Roads of National Significance was to ensure that these roads were given priority when the funding allocations for roads were being determined by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) while preparing the National Land Transport Programme.
The National Land Transport Programme 2009-2012 (NLTP) prepared by the NZTA, addresses the Roads of National Significance. The Roads of National Significance represents a change in planning for national transport infrastructure in New Zealand. Prior to 2009, improvements have tended to be reactive and focused on improving transport networks to keep pace with growth.
To address the requirements of the GPS, the NZTA has increased its 10 year forecast expenditure on state highway improvements with a focus on Roads of National Significance.
The NLTP aims to advance the delivery of the identified Roads of National Significance so that they are substantially completed within the next 10 years. If the roads are to be completed in this time they will require funding beyond that currently identified. The NZTA believes that alternative financing options are likely to be explored.
The NZTA has also identified the need to work with local government to ensure that the full benefits of the Roads of National Significance are realised. This involves improving and maintaining local links to the Roads of National Significance.
The NLTP has allocated $1,359 million towards Roads of National Significance for the period 2009-2012. Other state highway improvement projects have been allocated $1,539 million.
In July 20011 the Minister of Transport released a new GPS (GPS 2012). The new version covers the financial period 2012/13 to 2018/19. The GPS 2012 continues to make Roads of National Significance a priority.
The GPS 2012 states that the Roads of National Significance programme will be on-going and an important part of the National Land Transport Programme. As the Roads of National Significance projects are completed, new ones may be added to the programme if they are needed and as revenue allows.
Possible new routes have been identified in the GPS 2012. The state highway classification system categorises state highways based on the function they perform, such as moving freight to and from ports or linking major population centres. The system provides a consensus on the role and function of state highways, and thus the levels of service that can be expected over a 20 year timeframe. Routes that may be considered on this basis for future Roads of National Significance include:
- Hamilton to Tauranga
- Cambridge to Taupo
- Napier to Hastings
- State Highway 1 north and south of the current Christchurch motorway projects.
Funding for Roads of National Significance for 2012/13 to 2015/16 has not yet been allocated by NZTA. Allocation of funding will need to be done before the start of the 2012/13 financial year.
Progress so far
Construction of the Victoria Park tunnel is almost complete with the tunnel opening to two of the three lanes of traffic on 14 October 2011. The third lane north is due to open to traffic in March 2012. The Victoria Park flyover will open in a new southbound-only layout in early January 2012.
Construction of the Tauranga Eastern Link between Tauranga and Paengaroa started in 2011. This road will run from the Baypark speedway to Paengaroa. The road will be partially funded by tolls. It is planned that the Tauranga Eastern Link will be open to by 2016.
The Waikato Expressway will provide 102km of continuous divided four-lane highway. The expressway is to be built in sections. Thirty two kilometres have been completed so far. Construction on the Ngaruawahia and Te Rapa sections is currently under way, with the other sections being investigated and designed.
The Wellington Northern Corridor has a total length of about 110km. Some elements of the project such as the section from MacKays Crossing to Otaki, around the Basin Reserve, and from Aotea Quay to Ngauranga Gorge are scheduled for completion within 10 years.
The Puhoi to Wellsford road of national significance will run for 38km through northern Auckland. The project aims to improve the state highway network from the Northern Gateway Toll Road to just north of Wellsford. Expected completion is 2022.
The contract for the Waterview Connection was announced on 19 August 2011. NZTA is working with the successful consortium to finalise all aspects of the design before construction commences. With an anticipated cost of $2 billion, the project will be the biggest ever to be undertaken by the NZTA. The NZTA expects the project to be completed by mid 2017.
The Christchurch Motorway projects will improve the southern and northern approaches to Christchurch, and provide a western bypass that links points north and south of Christchurch with the International Airport. Following the Canterbury earthquake Christchurch’s wider transport priorities need to be confirmed. As a result there is still some uncertainty around the construction timing for this project.
Further reading : Roads of National Significance website.
Nick Robertson, Research Services Analyst
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