The NZ Transport Agency says the first four kilometres of the $230 million Cambridge section of the Waikato Expressway is almost complete.
On September 18 the Northern Interchange Bridge will open to traffic for the first time, taking State Highway 1 traffic up and over the Expressway, while traffic heading towards Hamilton will travel on the north-bound Expressway lanes.
The Transport Agency’s Hamilton highways manager, Kaye Clark says the opening of the bridge means 4km of the Cambridge section, between the existing Tamahere Interchange and the Northern Interchange, will be complete.
“This is an exciting milestone that’s comes two years into construction,” she says.
“Work is going well on the rest of the Cambridge section and weather dependent, the entire 15.2 kilometre length could be open in time for Christmas.
“The project team will have a clear picture in mid-October, when we hope to announce an opening date to the public.
“But for now we are pleased to open the Northern Interchange Bridge and this initial stretch. It is exciting news.”
The 4km section will open with one lane in each direction and an initial 50km/h speed restriction to allow the chip seal to bed in.
After this, motorists will be able to travel at 80km/h on the section until the entire Cambridge section is finished.
“Because we’re only opening a 4km stretch we will maintain the speed restrictions and one lane in each direction until the entire project is completed to ensure motorists travel safely through this area,” Mrs Clark says.
“It is important motorists drive with extra care along the stretch of SH1 as construction on the remainder of the Cambridge section continues.
“It is a constantly changing environment and we ask that people continue to respect the traffic management and speed restrictions as we work towards opening the whole road.
“Thank you for your patience. This has been a complex project however the end is in sight.”
The $230 million project is part of the Waikato Expressway, one of seven Roads of National Significance (RoNS) identified by the government as key to unlocking New Zealand’s potential for economic growth.
The Cambridge section is expected to reduce journey times between Cambridge and Hamilton by approximately five minutes and during peak times up to 10 minutes. It will also make this stretch of SH1 safer for all motorists.
When complete, the Waikato Expressway will be the key transport corridor for the region, connecting Auckland to the agricultural and business centres of Waikato and Bay of Plenty.
Earlier this year the Transport Agency board approved $1.08 billion to fund construction of the Hamilton and Longswamp sections.
The green light from the board means that all seven sections of the expressway will be built, under construction or ready to go out to tender by the end of 2015.