Two multimillion dollar transport projects opened in Hawke's Bay today, providing a major boost to road safety and economic growth in the region.
The SH2 Matahorua Gorge Realignment and the SH50A Hawke’s Bay Expressway Southern Extension are the first of several roading projects accelerated by the Government’s stimulus package of February 2009 to officially open.
NZTA State Highways Manager Mark Kinvig and NZTA Regional Director Jenny Chetwynd joined the Minister of Transport Hon Steven Joyce and Wairoa Mayor Les Probert to cut the ribbon on the $26m SH2 Matahorua Gorge Realignment project this morning.
In a nod to local drivers who will gain both time and cost savings from the new route, the dignitaries made a ceremonial first crossing of the project’s main bridge - a 137 metre viaduct - in a logging truck.
Besides the viaduct, the 3.1 km realignment features a rail underpass and a new section of highway to replace the previous winding route through the gorge. Previously, motorists travelling on State Highway 2 through the gorge, including logging trucks travelling to Napier from the nearby forests, were often delayed by closures due to poor weather and slips. By removing a number of sharp corners and bypassing the challenging gorge route with the new bridge, the new highway would make journeys much safer and easier.
“This project is a comprehensive safety makeover that will reduce the risk of crashes, and also shorten the journey on this busy stretch of highway by nearly 1.5 kilometres and shave 6 minutes off a return trip.” said Ms Chetwynd.
Ms Chewynd said the project would improve safety on a route which was popular for truckies, farmers, tourists and locals, and help to open up the region economically by improving a crucial link between Gisborne and Wairoa and Napier/Hastings.
Further south in Hastings, Deputy Mayor Cynthia Bowers joined the Minister and the NZTA in the afternoon to celebrate completion of the $12m SH50A Hawke’s Bay Expressway Southern Extension project. Construction on the expressway first began in the 1960s to form a transportation spine between Napier Airport and Hastings. The opening of the final 3.2km piece of the puzzle has removed a dogleg and reduced queuing to give drivers a quicker, safer run between the York Road and Longland Road roundabouts.
Mark Kinvig acknowledged the NZ Transport Agency’s ongoing appreciation and support of both the community and regional organisations throughout the construction of the two projects.
“In particular I extend my thanks to the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, Hastings District Council, the Wairoa District Council and the people of Ngati Pahauwera, Ngati Tu and Ngati Poporo, for their support in delivering these projects to Hawke’s Bay motorists. Without your help these major transport projects would not have been possible,” he said.
Community support of the Matahorua project saw 5,000 residents walk and cycle across the bridge at an open day on 13 February. Organised by the NZ Transport Agency, Rotary and Tutira School, fundraising on the day raised $6,200 for Tutira School and Rotary. Rotary will donate its share of the money to walking and cycling initiatives across the Hawke’s Bay.