The Government yesterday announced it plans to spend over $200 million on a series of regional roading projects. This is clearly a result of trying to keep the regions happy from a potential backlash after they announced a motorway splurge in Auckland last year. Like the Auckland package these projects are being funding outside of the National Land Transport Fund and in this case the money is meant to be coming from their asset sales fund.
Prime Minister John Key has this morning announced $212 million from the Future Investment Fund for a package of 14 regionally important State highway projects.
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee says the government is committing up to $80 million from the package to accelerate five critically important regional projects, with work beginning next year.
These five projects are:
- Kawarau Falls Bridge, in Otago
- Mingha Bluff to Rough Creek realignment, in Canterbury
- Akerama Curves Realignment and Passing Lane, in Northland
- State Highway 35 Slow Vehicle Bays, in Gisborne
- Normanby Overbridge Realignment, in Taranaki.
“These projects are fully investigated and designed, and address current safety, resilience or productivity issues, but construction wasn’t due to begin until late this decade or after 2020,” Mr Brownlee says.
“Following today’s announcement construction on these projects could begin in 2014/15, and be completed by 2016/17.
“The government is committed to fund the next six projects with an additional $115 million and subject to the usual investigations, construction would be expected to begin within three years on each of these projects.
The six projects are:
- Whirokino Trestle Bridge replacement, in Manawatu/Wanganui
- Motu Bridge replacement, in Gisborne
- Opawa and Wairau Bridge replacements, in Marlborough
- Taramakau Road/Rail Bridge, on the West Coast
- Loop road north to Smeatons Hill safety improvements, in Northland
- Mt Messenger and Awakino Gorge Corridor, in Taranaki.
“A further $12 million will be available to accelerate investigation and design of three large projects in Hawke’s Bay, Nelson and the Bay of Plenty,” Mr Brownlee says.
These projects are:
- Port of Napier access package, in Hawke’s Bay
- Nelson Southern Link, in Nelson
- Rotorua Eastern Arterial, in Bay of Plenty.
“Each project could then be considered for funding under the proposed Regional Improvements activity class in the next Government Policy Statement on land transport.
“By directly funding some of the most crucial State highway improvements, the government is freeing up more funding in the Regional Improvements activity class for other priority projects.
“This funding package also strongly complements the government’s Roads of National Significance programme, ensuring people and freight reach their destinations quickly and safety,” Mr Brownlee says.
Here is a map of roughly where they’re each located.
I imagine that some of the projects on this list actually make sense and were probably only so far away from being fund through normal procedures due to the Roads of National Significance sucking up all the new State Highway spending . The Ministry of Transport go further by saying that all of the projects in the first group have a BCR of greater than one and in some cases it’s more than four. That would put them better than some of the RoNS like the 0.2 for the Kapiti Expressway. The MoT say the next six projects are still being investigated and are expected to “also be high quality projects” however this document from 2013 shows the Whirokino Trestle Bridge replacement to have a BCR of 0.5 or 0.6 depending on what option is chosen.
What seems to be a common theme amongst many of the projects is that they are replacing bridges that aren’t able to carry the new super heavy trucks the government allowed a few years ago.
Perhaps the most worrying thing about this announcement isn’t so much the projects themselves but that the government is getting more and more involved in picking projects rather than leaving it up to the NZTA to decide on spending based on merit. It started with the RoNS and last year we got the Auckland package.
Even for the projects in the top 5 which are said to be ready to go there is very little information available. The only two I could find are the Karawau Falls Bridge and the Mingha Bluff to Rough Creek realignment.
The Karawau Falls Bridge is expected to cost $20-25 million and will replace the current 88 year old single lane bridge which they say could be renovated to provide a walking and cycling connection.
Mingha Bluff to Rough Creek realignment is roughly a 5km realignment of SH3 south of Arthurs Pass
Lastly here are some tweets from John Key’s twitter account when announcing this further road spend up.
“Over the last six years, our Government has invested heavily in vital infrastructure to make up for years of underinvestment.” #TeamKey
— John Key (@johnkeypm) June 28, 2014
“That’s why today I am pleased to announce a package of 14 regional roading projects across the country.” #TeamKey
— John Key (@johnkeypm) June 28, 2014
It’s completely disingenuous to say that good roads are good for public transport. None of the roading projects pushed by the government over the last 6 years have had any benefit to public transport and many (like those in Wellington) will actually work against the PT system. What all of the projects have primarily been about is moving bigger and heavier trucks.