Four laning State Highway 3 between Bell Block and the city will be a valuable investment in Taranaki's transport future, says the NZ Transport Agency about the latest plans for the Vickers to City highway upgrade.
Transport Agency regional highway manager David McGonigal says the Agency has responded in the affirmative to public feedback favouring a continuous four lane highway between Bell Block and the city, doubling capacity along most of the route and helping to harness the region's economic potential. The Agency's original plans had allowed for three lanes.
"We did a lot of listening at the public information days, and people told us loud and clear that they think a four lane highway is what will serve this growing city's needs best. It's great that we had that conversation, and we're thrilled that we're in a position to give effect to this feedback."
"The project was initially future proofed to potentially allow for four laning at a later stage. We've now established that if we invest in the future now, we can bring those benefits forward without needing to revisit the project at greater cost and disruption years down the track. It's a win win for what is the economic hub of the region."
The increased capacity on the transport network will reduce traffic congestion, enabling people to travel between work, school and home more quickly and waste less time and petrol idling in traffic jams.
"Time spent waiting in traffic is productivity wasted, and leisure or family time we don't get back. The increased capacity of the highway through Waiwhakaiho and into the city will make a difference to journeys that people will notice every day, and give travellers more time to do the things they want to."
"We can also unlock bigger benefits to Taranaki's pivotal freight industry by making their journeys more efficient and reducing the cost of getting goods to market."
Cyclists will also benefit. "The current roading environment is very constrained, and having two lanes in each direction will enable cyclists and motorists to share the road more safely and easily."
"There's only three cities in New Zealand that have been recognised as 'model communities' for cycling. New Plymouth is deservedly one of them. Cyclists help to reduce congestion by keeping cars off the roads, and we need to plan transport infrastructure in the spirit of embracing cyclists as an important part of our transport community."
Mr McGonigal says the four-laning was made possible by KiwiRail's agreement to allow the Transport Agency to acquire land to widen the transport corridor.
"We would like to thank KiwiRail for their agreement to transfer land to us to create extra space for four-laning. Our hats go off to them for recognising their ability to contribute to economic growth and better, safer journeys through sharing their land with the highway network."
Mr McGonigal says that while the cost of the project will rise slightly, the benefits will be well worth it. The expected project cost has risen about 10% to approximately $16m - a proportionately small increase for such a significant improvement in the project's performance. It will dovetail with other key investments in the Taranaki region, particularly opening up the region to HPMV (better performing, higher load trucks) to make the region more competitive and safe when moving its goods from primary source to market.
He says the Transport Agency are also participating in a review with a raft of agencies to improve safety between Bell Block and the city. Mr McGonigal says the Transport Agency is thrilled at the region's unity over improving safety along this stretch of highway.
The safety review aims to deliver safety measures based on focus safe roads and roadsides, safe speeds, safe drivers and safe vehicles. It is being carried out in conjunction with Police, New Plymouth District Council, Taranaki Regional Council, the Automobile Association, the Road Transport Association, ACC and Road Safe Taranaki.
More information on the Vickers to City improvements can be found at www.nzta.govt.nz/vickers-to-city(external link)