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
- Recognise SH1 as the key national state highway and most important inter-regional corridor in the Waikato region.
- Recognise the Waikato Expressway as a strategic project of national importance.
- Prioritise development of the Waikato Expressway as the number one strategic project for the Waikato region.
- Recognise the ETA (eastern bypass of Taupo) as a strategic project of national importance.
SH1 through Hamilton
- Acknowledge that the existing SH1 within Hamilton is likely to remain the state highway corridor for a 10-20 year timeframe.
- The Hamilton SH1 alignment will remain the strategic connection to SH3 for the foreseeable future.
- Ensure the corridor is developed to serve the economic development needs of Hamilton city and the Waikato region without compromising development of the Waikato Expressway as the number one strategic project for the Waikato region.
Alternative routes to SH1 – SH1b, SH39, Ohinewai to Tahuna Road
- Maintain corridors and ensure any interim development (including safety work) does not compromise the longer-term function of SH1 and the Waikato Expressway.
SH2, SH27, SH29 – Inter-regional corridors connecting Auckland and Waikato to the Bay of Plenty
- Protect the environmental and amenity values of Karangahake Gorge and prioritise for tourism and local traffic over freight.
- Ensure safety issues are addressed on SH2 and SH27.
- Promote and develop SH1/SH29 as the strategic long-term corridor connecting Auckland and Waikato with the Bay of Plenty region.
- SH25 Coromandel Peninsula.
- Promote the barging of freight as an alternative transport mode on the Coromandel Peninsula.
- Improve safety outcomes (particularly addressing cycle touring) whilst ensuring environmental and tourism values are not adversely affected (particularly on the Thames Coast Road).
- Ensure that integrated land use planning monitors the need for future improvements to SH25 on the eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula to cater for anticipated demand.
- Improve route reliability and security of corridor, and congestion points (for example at Kopu Bridge).
SH3 connecting Waikato and Taranaki
- In partnership with the Taranaki region, work to improve route reliability and security of corridor in recognition of SH3’s function as a key transport corridor and route of economic importance.
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.