Another milestone has been reached in the construction of the Waikato Expressway Road of National Significance with the second section, the Ngaruwahia Section, to be officially opened by Minister for Transport Gerry Brownlee at a ceremony this Saturday 14 December.
The 12.3km section, which bypasses Ngaruawahia and stretches from Taupiri in the north to Horotiu in the south, will be formally opened by Minister Gerry Brownlee. The road will then open to traffic in the week of 16 December.
The wider community are invited to attend the official ceremony which will run from 11.30am to 12.15pm on ‘Te Rehu o Waikato’ (the mist of Waikato), the new 142 metre bridge across the Waikato River near Horotiu. The ceremony will be followed by a public walkover on the Ngarauwahia section. There will also be a separate opening ceremony for the Te Awa River Ride cycleway, which runs under the bridge, which will take place nearby the official opening ceremony of the Ngaruwahia Section.
NZ Transport Agency Waikato Highways Manager Kaye Clark says the approximately $200 million project, built by contractor Fletcher Construction, will be completed for around $50 million below its original cost estimate of $250 million.
"This is a crucial piece of infrastructure for the Waikato region and for New Zealand, as it is central to providing safer and more efficient transport links between the business and freight hubs of Waikato, Auckland and Tauranga,” says Mrs Clark.
The Ngaruawahia Section is a crucial link in the Waikato Expressway as it joins to the existing Te Rapa section, and includes interchanges for the yet-to-be-built Huntly and Hamilton sections. Once open the Ngaruawahia section together with the Te Rapa section is expected to provide an estimated average saving of eight minutes to a peak time journey between Taupiri and Hamilton.
“Importers, exporters, tourism operators and commuters will also all benefit from having faster more efficient connections between the Waikato and Auckland,” says Mrs Clark.
Waikato District Mayor Allan Sanson welcomes the opening of the Ngaruawahia Section as another important step in getting this hugely significant piece of infrastructure completed.
“I cannot overstate how important the expressway is for the Waikato district,” says Mayor Sanson. “It is vital to our future growth and prosperity, by providing a modern transport link that will encourage, and is already encouraging, businesses and industries to relocate to the magnificent Waikato.”
Mrs Clark says the opening ceremony and open day was set to be a great event. As it is being held in conjunction with the Te Awa River Ride’s official opening, the day promises walkers and cyclists a great opportunity to explore the Horotiu area from a new perspective.
Mrs Clark says the highlight of the Ngaruawahia section is undoubtedly Te Rehu o Waikato. The name refers to the many significant events in Waikato-Tainui history which occurred when there was a blanket of mist on the river. The bridge is supported by four V-piers, two on either bank, which means that at no stage of its life will piers have had to be placed in the river. Alongside the bridge are four pou (carved poles), two at either end, which depict Waikato-Tainui ancestors and significant historical marae in the area from Taupiri to Horotiu.
Besides Te Rehu o Waikato, there are six local road overbridges on the Ngaruawahia Section, ensuring that disruption has been minimised for local residents by the construction of this vital piece of infrastructure.
Mrs Clark also encourages motorists to be cautious when driving the on the new section of Expressway over the coming weeks, as some drivers may take some time to adjust to the new road layout.
“The road will initially open to traffic with a speed limit of 80 km per hour to ensure that the road surface settles appropriately. This is only temporary, and the speed limit should be raised to 100 km/h within two days of the road opening,” says Mrs Clark.