The Waikato Expressway (defined as SH1 as it crosses the region from Bombay to the Desert Road) has been identified as the number one priority for the region's transport funding, at a recent meeting of the Regional Land Transport Committee.
“This decision is a significant step in the draft Regional Land Transport Strategy, and represents a key milestone in prioritising the region’s future transport needs,” says Regional Land Transport Committee chairman, Angus Macdonald.
“Obviously, the different parts of our region - which stretches from Coromandel and Franklin in the north down to Taupo and Mokau in the south - will each have individual projects which they see as important to their area.
“However, the important thing is that the committee reached a regionwide agreement that the Waikato Expressway is the number one priority for funding.
“This is important for two reasons. Firstly our ability to negotiate for extra government funding depends on the region as a whole agreeing on its key priorities. Secondly, the Waikato Expressway provides a direct and uncongested route through the region, which will potentially reduce our region's tragically high death rate.”
The next stage in the development of the draft strategy includes setting priorities for other key sub-regional projects. This will occur at the next meeting on 16 May, with the strategy being publicly notified on 29 May.
Alongside the expressway, the Regional Land Transport Committee meeting discussed the importance of the eastern bypass of Taupo, the Kopu Bridge and SH2 as strategic corridors.
Councillor Macdonald said that the strategy’s intention is to see the expressway completed no later than 20 years.
“We will be pushing for this to be done much sooner than the 20 year timeframe,” he said. “However in drawing up the strategy, we are required to take into account likely funding provided by Land Transport New Zealand.
“Under existing funding, there will be sufficient money over the next 10 years to get the Expressway to Huntly, and to complete the Cambridge bypass. This is why we are forced to look at a 20 year timeframe to complete the job.
“However we will be aggressively pushing for more funding so that we can complete the job in a faster timeframe.”
Waikato Transport Alliance chairman, Clayton Stent, described the Regional Land Transport Strategy approach as "sensible and logical.”
“The Waikato Mayors’ Group is supportive of this sensible and logical approach to roading issues in the region - and we look forward to working in conjunction with the Regional Land Transport Committee in seeing that appropriate outcomes are successfully implemented,” he said.
The committee agreed to the following core principles:
SH1 and Waikato Expressway
SH1 through Hamilton
Alternative routes to SH1 – SH1b, SH39, Ohinewai to Tahuna Road
SH3 connecting Waikato and Taranaki
The draft Regional Land Transport Strategy will be open for public consultation in June, with hearing of submissions in August. In September, the Regional Land Transport Strategy will then be recommended for adoption by the regional council – and will form a key strategic document for seeking additional funding.