Transit New Authority has approved a plan for completing the Mercer to Longswamp section of the State Highway One Expressway – if funds are available.
Environment Waikato chairman Neil Clarke, Cr David Peart, Hamilton mayor David Braithwaite and MP Martin Gallagher presented a petition to Transit and Transfund executives last week calling for the expressway to be the number one priority for the Region.
Transit chairperson Alan Bickers said today that if the funds were available from Transfund it would undertake the four-laning of Mercer-Longswamp section largely in line with its earlier proposals.
It would like to let a second pre-load contract later this year - the first is now nearing completion - and the main contract to finish the job would follow the next year. Pre-loading refers to building up the land to prevent slumping.
Neil Clarke welcomed the news and said it was clear the project was now moving in the right direction. The decision to approve plans was a positive step towards completing the project.
“This is regarded as a matter of urgency and Transfund is likely to address the funding at the end of the month.
“There appears to be a significant amount of effort on ensuring the momentum of this section is maintained, but even with the effort to date it does appear that construction is likely to be completed 12 months later than initially indicated by Transit.”
A decision on how to complete the project was deferred last year because when tenders closed, the likely completion cost of around $85 million was well in excess of Transit’s budget. Since then Transit had been investigating options for reducing the overall cost of the project and had now identified a number of areas where savings could be made.
One was re-using parts of the existing highway incorporated into one side of the new four-lane highway.
With more time allowed before the main contract, there would be further savings on construction of the large embankments over the soft swamps, which had already been preloaded.
Transit’s best estimate of the cost of the redesigned project was $79million. It would be seeking funding immediately from Transfund for the pre-load contract and amended design work.
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