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Published: 2003-03-10 00:00:00

Environment Waikato’s Regional Land Transport Committee has recommended supporting improvements to the state highway between the Waikato and Taranaki.

The Committee has received a submission from the State Highway 3 Working Party urging it to support three key passing lane projects, and make a submission to Transit New Zealand to include the projects in the National State Highway programme. A delegation from the Working Party made a presentation to this month’s Land Transport Committee.

The Working Party includes representatives of New Plymouth and Waitomo District Councils, Western Central Road Transport Association, Environment Waikato, Taranaki Regional Council, Transit New Zealand and Transfield.

The northern section of the highway has been of increasing concern to the Taranaki community and road users. Heavy rain, floods and storms have frequently closed the road or restricted operation. It was closed for a week in 1997 after a washout, with more traffic restrictions while work was done to mend the road.

A collapse at Stockman’s Hill in winter 1998 closed the road to one lane and a detour, and the site was not improved until the following summer. Frequent heavy vehicle crashes have led to delays and reduced access and increased public complaints have called for action to improve the standard and reliability of the route.

A Taranaki Regional Council investigation showed there was a case for greater priority to be given to the works based on its national strategic value, estimated at $40 million a year. The road is the principal arterial route north and south for Taranaki and the only major road link for the northern half of the North Island.

It is vital for industry and access to northern markets and export outlets, a key energy and raw dairy product transport route and important for tourism.

Passing opportunities are severely limited, with a 94km length with no south bound passing lanes and 38km with no north bound passing lanes. This makes the road unsafe, because driver impatience and difficult terrain increases the potential for crashes, the delegation said.

Undertaking the passing lane projects would improve the perception of the road as susceptible to closure from slips or crashes, especially from heavy transport and that its tortuous nature cuts the Taranaki Region off from the rest of the North Island.
The cost of the projects is estimated at around $500,000 - $600,000.