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Published: 2011-09-29 00:00:00

Waikato Regional Council has welcomed this morning’s sod turning ceremony marking the start of construction of the Ngaruawahia section of the Waikato Expressway.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce attended the ceremony held on Lake Road, Horotiu, just north of Hamilton.

The 12km, four-lane road will link Taupiri with the Te Rapa section of the expressway, which is already under construction. It will include a new bridge crossing the Waikato River approximately 400m south of the existing Horotiu Bridge.

Regional transport committee chairman Norm Barker was also at the event and said: “The regional council, with other partners, has been working in collaboration with the NZ Transport Agency on this roading project.

“The turning of the first sod at Ngaruawahia today is yet another significant step in this long-term project.

“The construction of the expressway goes a long way towards meeting the objectives of the Waikato’s Regional Land Transport Strategy. The strategy supports construction of nationally and regionally significant traffic corridors and our number one priority is the completion of the Waikato Expressway by 2019.

“Having this key national strategic corridor in our region supports our economic growth. It will also help to channel long distance vehicles off local roads and onto major arterial routes.

“More than 20 per cent of the country’s road fatalities occur in the Waikato and it is expected the expressway will help to cut the number of fatal and serious injury crashes.

“The expressway will also ensure traffic congestion decreases and travel times are reduced,” Cr Barker said.