Today the government and NZTA confirmed that one of the “roads of national significance”, the Tauranga Eastern Motorway, will be tolled to advance its construction. I don’t really know too much about this particular project, other than one of its major benefits will supposedly be “to stimulate development east of Tauranga”, which seems to mean “to enable urban sprawl”. In any case, here’s the media release:
Construction of the Tauranga Eastern Link road of national significance will start up to 10 years earlier than previously possible following the Government’s approval for the route to be tolled, the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) confirmed today.
NZTA Bay of Plenty Regional Director Harry Wilson says this decision clears the way for the NZTA to get the main construction underway in early 2011.
“Having confirmation that we’ll be able to start early is excellent news. The Tauranga Eastern Link will make an important contribution to the Bay of Plenty’s economic and social well-being and the earlier we can get the road built, the better,” says Mr Wilson.
The four-lane road will run from Te Maunga (near Baypark Stadium) in Tauranga to the existing junction of State Highways 2 and 33 (the Rotorua and Whakatane highways) near Paengaroa. It will be made up 17km of new road and an upgrade of six kilometres of existing highway.
As well as improving the efficiency of freight vehicles accessing the Port of Tauranga and beyond, the Tauranga Eastern Link will improve safety for residents along the current route of State Highway 2 and open up access to new developments planned for Papamoa, Mr Wilson says.
With an estimated cost of $455M*, it will be the largest state highway project ever built in the Bay of Plenty. The NZTA is currently evaluating tenders from two major consortia and expects to announce the successful tenderer in October this year.
“We’re excited about what completing this project will mean for the Bay of Plenty and are grateful for the support of our local government partners – Tauranga City Council, Western Bay of Plenty District Council and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.”
Mr Wilson says tolls will apply to the section of new road from the Domain Road intersection to Paengaroa. A free-flow tolling system will be used to enable motorists to travel the 23km journey without having to stop or slow down to pay a toll.
“We know there will be a lot of interest in the project as it gets underway and we’ll be working hard to keep people informed of progress. This will include a dedicated website and an on-site visitor centre which is due to be opened next year,” says Mr Wilson.
The fact that this can be a toll road is because the existing State Highway 2 will provide the necessary free alternative that the current legislation requires.
Thinking about this, it makes me wonder whether the reason NZTA are going for a completely “off-line” solution for the Puhoi-Wellsford “holiday highway” is so they can toll it. However, the ability to toll a road certainly does not mean that it will be more cost-effective. I’m pretty certain that the dodgy business case for the holiday highway was predicated on the road being untolled, and all the predicted traffic between Puhoi and Wellsford being likely to use the road. If a toll was applied, and that put off a reasonable chunk of potential users of the road (and I can’t quite imagine the toll staying at a mere $2), then the time-savings benefits the project will supposedly create will plummet due to far fewer people using the route.
Of course the Puhoi-Wellsford road may not be tolled (although unless there’s an exit at Puhoi the whole Orewa-Warkworth section will be within the existing tolled area), but it would be interesting to know what the plans are.