There was karakia and kapa haka in Kirikiriroa this morning (and plenty of umbrellas too) as around 250 hundred guests joined Kiingi Tuuheitia Pootatau Te Wherowhero VII and Transport Minister Michael Wood to cut the ribbon on the biggest roading project in Waikato history.
“The 22-kilometre Hamilton Section is the final piece of the Waikato Expressway jigsaw. We’re delighted that road users now have a safe corridor all the way from Auckland to Cambridge,” said Waka Kotahi Regional Manager, Jo Wilton, at today’s celebrations.
After eight years at the helm of the project, Ms Wilton says she’s proud of the huge effort that’s gone into making this one of the safest roads in the country. “The Hamilton section will reduce traffic congestion, improve safety, reduce travel times and boost economic growth in the Waikato and beyond”, she said.
Running from Ngaaruawaahia in the north to the existing Tamahere interchange south of Hamilton, this significant road connects Auckland to the agriculture and business centres of the Waikato and will improve productivity in the region.
“Today is a milestone moment for Hamilton. Thanks to the ongoing leadership of Waikato-Tainui and including members from, Ngaati Koroki Kahukura, Ngaati Hauaa, Ngaati Wairere and Ngaati Mahanga and local councils on the project. We couldn’t have built this without your support,” Ms Wilton said.
The Hamilton section is the final section of the four-laning of State Highway 1 between Bombay and south of Cambridge.
Work on the earlier sections of the expressway began in the 1990s in Tamahere and Pookeno and continued with Oohinewai and Mercer in the 2000s. In 2009 the remaining seven sections were funded for construction with Te Rapa (opened 2012), Ngaaruawaahia (2013), Cambridge (2015), Rangiriri (2017), Longswamp (2020), Huntly (2020) and now Hamilton (2022).
The full 102km Expressway will reduce travel times between Auckland and Tirau by 35 minutes for approximately 20,000 vehicles a day.
“This road has had its speed limit increased to 110km/hr because of its modern design and safety features. Less time spent in cars means more time spent with friends and family.
“The Expressway is built to the highest safety specifications The entire route is lined with central and side safety barriers, meaning safer journeys for generations to come,” said Ms Wilton.
The road traverses the city’s gully systems – Mangaharakeke, Mangaone and Mangaonua gullies – where Waka Kotahi has restored wildlife by putting in native plants and removing pests. In total, there have been over 860,000 plants on the project.
When the 22-kilometre section of the Expressway opens to traffic shortly, road users will enjoy artworks by Maaori artists, like the giant poro takataka that dwarf the Resolution Interchange, a tribute to tangata whenua’s ancestral connection to the land and aspirations for the future.