Tauranga continues to aspire to the title of mini-Auckland with an announcement from the government on Friday of $520 million for another motorway into the city, the 6.8km Tauranga Northern Link. The funding even includes a money set aside for a future extension of the to be built motorway a further 6km+ to Omokoroa.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges today announced a $520 million roading package that will transform State Highway 2 (SH2) between Tauranga and Waihi.
The package includes:
- The $286 million Tauranga Northern Link (TNL).
- $85 million worth of safety improvements designed to reduce death and serious injury crashes.
- Up to $150 million to provide for future traffic growth, paving the way for an upgrade between Omokoroa and Te Puna.
“This is a significant transport investment for Tauranga and the wider Bay of Plenty area. It will improve safety, reduce congestion and support growth on what is a very busy route, making a noticeable difference for motorists and easing freight movement,” Mr Bridges says.
“It is yet another example of the Government’s focus on increasing economic growth and improving safety through transport investment.
“We know that transport is an enabler of economic activity so we need to continue unlocking key congestion points to get people and freight moving efficiently around the country.”
The TNL is a new 6.8 km highway which will connect Tauranga’s Takitimu Drive Toll Road with SH2 Te Puna.
“The TNL is a long awaited project in the Tauranga community. Last week I attended a public meeting to hear the views of local people and it’s clear there’s a lot of support for getting this project underway.
“Once complete it will reduce traffic through the busy townships of Bethlehem and Te Puna, provide a better commute into the city, and support the Western Bay’s many industries.
“Today I’m also announcing that $150 million has been earmarked for a future extension of the TNL. A business case for extending the TNL from Te Puna to Omokoroa is expected to be completed toward the middle of next decade.
“All up this means the TNL will provide a four lane highway linking Tauranga’s Takitimu Drive Toll Road with SH2 at Omokoroa,” Mr Bridges says.
The project isn’t exactly new and a quick search finds it has been around in some form since the early 1990’s and was designated in 2001 so at least the project wasn’t just pulled out of thin air like the Puhoi to Warkworth project was. What surprised me the most about the announcement was the timing. I’ve seen discussion of the project before but it hasn’t been listed in various documents as happening at least within the next few years. It’s not even a project listed on the Bay of Plenty section of the NZTA website.
The daily traffic volumes at the western end of the project at Te Puna are shown below and the road is obviously busier once it gets closer to Tauranga – such as around Bethlehem. They’ve definitely taken a sharp upwards turn in recent years and given Tauranga’s plans to open up more development, especially around Omokoroa I suspect those volumes will increase.
While the announcement has been made now, the press release mentions construction won’t actually start till 2018 and the extension obviously some time later. As there’s already a designation the focus till then will be on design but it raises the question of why make such a public statement about it now? The funding for the as yet un-assessed extension also highlights the dramatic difference in playing field that exists with transport in NZ. Public transport, walking/cycling and even local road projects seem to have to jump through huge hoops to get funding but for state highways the cash is handed out without question.
The $436 million for those two bits of motorway can be added to some of the recently completed and currently under construction projects around Tauranga. This includes the $455 million Tauranga Eastern Link, the currently under construction $102 million to grade separate sections of SH2 through Bayfair and the $45 million to build an underpass at Maungatapu. There’s also the $62 million the NZTA recently spent to buy the failing Takitimu Dr (Route K) toll road off the Tauranga City Council.
The one aspect I do think is very good about the announcement is the significant amount of money going towards safety improvements between Te Puna and Waihi. One of the improvements already made a few years ago inspired me to write this post about how we need to see more focus on improving safety and so $85 million is likely to have significant benefits. The map below shows where the focus of that spending will be
And this one focuses just on the Te Puna to Omokoroa section