An extra $53 million for improving state highways in the Waikato and another $4.9 million for regional passenger transport has been welcomed by Environment Waikato.
Issues related to the newly announced funding from Land Transport New Zealand – and fresh construction timeframes from Transit New Zealand – were discussed at today’s Regional Land Transport Committee meeting in Hamilton.
Environment Waikato, which coordinates transport planning in the region, said the $53 million for roading was mostly for design work on State Highway 1 Waikato Expressway projects including the Hamilton, Huntly, Ngaruawahia and Rangiriri bypasses, as well as the design of four-laning between Longswamp and Rangiriri. Some of the funds will also be applied to construction projects.
The Expressway design work is due to get underway as soon as possible. Land Transport NZ has yet to actually commit construction funds to these projects.
However, Transit has now made a commitment to start building the Rangiriri bypass within four years, and it has also signaled the Ngaruawahia and Cambridge bypasses will start to be built between 2011-12 and 2016-17.
“While we would always like to see things moving faster, the extra funding from Land Transport NZ and the signals from Transit represent good progress across the range of remaining Waikato Expressway projects,” said committee chairman Cr Angus Macdonald.
Other projects signaled in the Transit programme are the Piarere-Oak Tree bend realignment, planned to start in 2007-08, and the Maramarua deviation and Kopu Bridge replacement, which are due to start within four years.
Land Transport NZ has also agreed to a request for $4.9 million in 2007-08 for passenger transport services in the region. The money will be used to maintain and enhance existing passenger transport services in Hamilton and across the region.
Another $60,000 is being made available for a pilot project aimed at improving passenger transport for the disabled in Hamilton. The committee’s Public Transport Users representative Gerry Pomeroy said the pilot – an initiative from Environment Waikato, Hamilton City Council and the disabled community – was aimed at developing standards that would guarantee access to buses and mobility aboard buses for the disabled. “We’re really thrilled that Land Transport NZ has listened to the disabled community and been prepared to fund a regional initiative.”
Cr Macdonald said the various developments were yet more steps towards the successful implementation of the committee’s Regional Land Transport Strategy for the Waikato.
“Sorting out the roads is important, as is encouraging more people to use alternatives. This is a growth and corridor region, and moving goods and people more freely and efficiently in the region is key to our success. Environment Waikato, and its partners on the committee, will continue to advocate proactively with Government and state funding agencies for solutions and improvements to transport infrastructure.
”Our newly established Regional Land Transport Strategy implementation working group – which includes a number of engineers - will have a key role to play in making sure our strategy is put in place in a cost effective and efficient way. Its tasks will include developing risk management and detailed funding plans.”