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Options investigated for State Highway upgrade

Transit New Zealand is looking into more cost effective options for upgrading State Highway 1 from Mercer to Long Swamp.

This week’s Environment Waikato Regional Land Transport Committee meeting was told the upgrade of the section was not cancelled, but Transit had declined the current bids as the prices exceeded the estimate. Options to progress this part of the project were being considered.

Franklin representative Brian Hosking said there was great concern at a meeting in the area that the project would take three to four years, and he questioned why the project was being held up. Since the section was going to cost more than estimated, there was now time to find extra funding from other sources.

Cr David Peart said the highway was getting worse with delays and would deteriorate over the next two or three years. Some maintenance was being delayed to coincide with construction, and if there were more delays money would have to be spent on maintenance. Maintenance funds were available and the work should be done, he said.

“I’m worried that they are prepared to spend on maintenance more than once, but can’t get the money for construction because the funding comes out of two separate baskets, instead of treating the job as one project.”

Environment Waikato Chairman Neil Clarke said the delay was a major setback, and significant sums of money were involved, but it was not possible to find solutions overnight.
“The only assurance we need is that Transfund and Transit are taking it very seriously, giving a high priority and acting responsibly. They are meeting to get the best possible solution and will tell us in the next few days what the new direction will be.

“We need to try and understand the magnitude that a problem such as this creates when things go wrong.”

Regional State Highways Manager for Transit, Colin Knaggs, said Transit and Transfund were dealing with the problem with the gravity it deserved, and there was always an option to re-route it – although that would put the issue back several years because of the consultation required.

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