31 Oct 2018
By Wright Communications
Plans announced by the New Zealand Transport Agency include safety upgrades and new highways between Whangarei and Te Hana in the north and from Otaki to north of Levin.
"Its great news improvements are being made around safety," says David Aitken, the NRC's chief executive officer.
"But the bigger picture is the need for a four-lane highway all the way between Whangarei and Auckland, if the projected growth in freight from North Port to Auckland is correct. We have to future proof the infrastructure, not just build for the present."
In the Horowhenua, the NZTA has said it will announce the route of the Levin expressway which will bypass the town, early in the New Year.
"We all know this area has been a bottleneck for decades," says Mr Aitken. "NZTA is talking about just two lanes, but once again traffic volumes and population growth support the need for four lanes."
Mr Aitken said New Zealand had a history of making roading improvements and then returning a few years later to make more upgrades in the same area.
"A classic case is what is happening in the Te Kauwhata area at the moment. A few years ago, it was made three lanes. Now they are doing four lanes."
Mr Aitken said the new projects in Northland and Horowhenua should be "done right first time with four lanes to take into account future traffic volumes."
In the north, initial work will focus on safety improvements between Whangarei and the turn-off to State Highway 15A and North Port at Marsden Point, which carries a lot of commuter traffic.
A new safer route would be devised to run alongside the current road, says NZTA, to create a four-lane highway.
Safety improvements - side and median barriers, centre lane widening and intersection improvements - are also planned between SH15A and Te Hana.
Both projects will be based on the prioritisation of a total of 12 major infrastructure projects around the country.
"It's a nice story," says Mr Aitken. "But we know it isn't going to happen anytime soon. We need actual dates and the knowledge they're going to get on with it.
NZTA has already said nothing will happen between Warkworth and Wellsford before 2030 apart from current safety improvements."
In Northland's case, the project would open up Northland to more investment and growth said Mr Aitken.
The Otaki to north of Levin expressway will rid the town of all the heavy transport that uses the main street. "It will give the local community back its town, without all the outside interference it has now," says Mr Aitken.
"We know the new Government is prioritising projects based on safety improvements to reduce death and injury, value for money and reduced emissions," says Mr Aitken.
Statistical history world wide has also shown that despite incentives to use rail and coastal freight alternatives, the vast majority of internal freight movements would still be by road transport, he said.
"We have lagged behind on infrastructure improvements while the population and its demand for everything it needs has grown," says Mr Aitken. "Our major roading network needs to catch up with the country's growth and its freight movement needs."
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