Unlocking economic productivity is the focus of a record investment in Taranaki roading infrastructure, following the announcement of a three-year package of transport investment for the region.
NZ Transport Agency Regional Director Central Jenny Chetwynd says today’s National Land Transport Programme announcement includes an unprecedented $165m for the maintenance and operation of the Taranaki region’s roads from 2012-15. The programme also includes funding for capacity improvements to the Waiwhakaiho Bridge and Te Henui in New Plymouth, and unlocking access to the Port of Taranaki for larger, more productive vehicles.
Safety improvements are also proposed for the SH3 Normanby Bridge in South Taranaki.
Ms Chetwynd says unlocking the bottleneck at Waiwhakaiho will free up the region’s busiest section of highway, while also improving safety for motorists.
“Waiwhakaiho Bridge is the missing link between Bell Block and the city, and the gridlock is currently holding back economic productivity for thousands of commuters, airport travellers and commercial freight vehicles every day. This bottleneck needs to be fixed, and our investment of regional funds over the next few years will help to address this problem for years to come.”
Ms Chetwynd says the NZTA was also committed to carrying out safety improvements on the Normanby Bridge as soon as possible. While the programme did not provide for the bridge to be replaced, safety improvements would be put in place to make the bridge and its approaches safer.
Ms Chetwynd said the NZTA would employ a targeted approach to address the root causes of crashes, such as speed and loss of control.
“We have imposed a 70km/h speed restriction on the bridge which we intend to make permanent, and we plan to put in place other safety measures which will make the bridge and its approaches safer, sooner. Once these safety measures are in place, we can form a long term view based on their effectiveness.”
Ms Chetwynd noted that the amount of regional funds available to the Taranaki region would not cover both the improvements needed at the Waiwhakaiho Bridge and a full replacement of the Normanby Bridge. The Taranaki Regional Transport Committee had not expressed a clear preference between the Waiwhakaiho Bridge and the Normanby Bridge for allocation of regional funds, and therefore in light of the available funding, the NZTA agreed with the Committee to explore how it could get the most benefits at each site within the funds available. By progressing safety measures at the Normanby Bridge, the NZTA can promptly address safety concerns at this location, and ensure that the crucial Waiwhakaiho Bridge project would still proceed.
Ms Chetwynd says that while the NZTA recognises safety concerns about the Normanby Bridge, the NZTA also needed to focus on incremental safety improvements elsewhere to make journeys safer across the whole region. The record investment in roading upkeep would contribute to a safer regional network, and a programme of safety retrofits and improvements at a range of high-risk locations would help to continue Taranaki’s encouraging downward trend of deaths and injuries caused by crashes.
Ms Chetwynd said the investment package also recognises the value for the Taranaki economy of unlocking the potential of important freight routes, particularly transporting goods to and from South Taranaki to the Port of Taranaki – a cornerstone of the local economy.
”The road to the port is a regional economic lifeline, and we will be improving this route to give it enough muscle to handle HPMV vehicles. This will make Taranaki more competitive, more productive, and more prosperous.
“This will largely involve improvements to bridge capacity, meaning larger, more productive vehicles can access the port, which allows more goods to be moved in fewer journeys. What this means is fuel, money and time saved, safety gains from fewer truck movements, and overall a more streamlined and efficient freight operation for the whole Taranaki economy.”
Ms Chetwynd said pedestrians and cyclists will continue to reap the rewards of New Plymouth being one of New Zealand’s first chosen ‘model communities’ for walking and cycling, with $7m set to be invested over the next three years.
“New Plymouth is a trailblazer when it comes to providing for pedestrians and cyclists. We’ll continue to invest strongly in its network of walking and cycling pathways both on and off the roading network. This will make walking and cycling more attractive, which will help to ease congestion while also providing health, convenience and recreational benefits for this active city.”
The programme also maintains current investment in Taranaki’s public transport system to help people get around by bus and prevent congestion.
The investment in Taranaki is part of a $12.28 billion investment in New Zealand’s land transport system set out in the 2012-15 National Land Transport Programme (NLTP), including $9.38 billion from the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF). The NLTP is a partnership between local authorities (who invest funding from ratepayers and prioritise activities and projects for funding) and the NZTA (which develops the programme and invests NLTF funds collected from road users through vehicle registration fees and fuel taxes.
Ms Chetwynd says the 2012-15 NLTP follows the direction outlined in the Government Policy Statement on land transport funding (GPS), with a focus on creating transport solutions that will support economic growth, improve safety, provide people with a range of transport choices and deliver the best possible value for money.
Ms Chetwynd says that while the 2012-15 NLTP represents a significant investment in New Zealand’s transport system, with the country facing tight economic conditions, not all proposed activities could be funded.
“We’ve been working closely with local and regional councils to ensure that funding is carefully targeted to the areas and the activities where it is needed the most and where it will deliver the best outcomes for the greatest number of people in the region,” Ms Chetwynd says.
The preparation of the 2012-15 NLTP has been informed by 16 regional transport committees and Auckland Transport developing and submitting regional land transport programmes outlining activities to be prioritised for NLTP funding.
Ms Chetwynd says the NZTA will continue working closely with Taranaki Regional Council, New Plymouth District Council, the Stratford District Council and the South Taranaki District Council as the NLTP is implemented over the next three years.
National and regional NLTP documents, Q&As and other information is available on the NZTA website at www.nzta.govt.nz/nltp(external link)