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Light rail delay creates highway opportunities

Published: Thu 22 Aug 2019 02:59 PM
22 August 2019
Light rail delay creates opportunity to accelerate highway projects
The AA is calling on the Government to bring forward critical highway projects while time is spent properly developing the plans for a rapid transit system in Auckland.
“There are a number of desperately needed State Highway safety projects around the country that have been unable to proceed due to a lack of funds,” says AA Principle Adviser on Infrastructure Barney Irvine.
“Part of the reason for that is the Government earmarked nearly $470m in the 2018-21 transport budget for rapid transit but an announcement at the Building Nations Symposium in Rotorua today has confirmed that construction on light rail in Auckland won’t be starting until sometime beyond 2020.
“This opens up a unique opportunity for some of that funding to be reprioritised and there are numerous major safety projects that we would like to see accelerated.”
Some of the leading contenders would be bringing forward upgrades to high-risk stretches of highway like SH2 between Tauranga and Waihi, SH1 from Otaki to Levin, SH1 from Whangarei to Marsden Point, or SH58 in Wellington.
“These are all projects that were re-evaluated by NZTA and found to be needed and in line with the Government’s priorities for improving safety and resilience,” says Mr Irvine.
“The local authorities are calling for them to happen as quickly as possible, the local communities want them to happen as quickly as possible, and these highways have some of the highest rates of deaths and injuries in the country. The only handbrake has been the lack of funding to advance them quickly.
“The rapid transit delay in Auckland reflects that the project is much more complex than many had imagined when commitments were first made. The AA expects that the extra time will result in much more clarity about what the project is seeking to achieve, how much it will cost, and what benefits it will deliver. This would be the biggest infrastructure project in our history, and we need to get it right.
“But, with that work taking longer than first predicted, let’s seize the unique opportunity and timing to make some of our most dangerous highways safer now.”
So far this year 224 people have died in crashes. There are live to be saved by accelerating critical road safety projects.
ends

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