The Peka Peka to Ōtaki Expressway forms part of the Wellington Northern Corridor which runs between Levin and Wellington Airport. The Wellington Northern Corridor is one of seven roads of national significance identified by government as requiring significant development to reduce congestion, improve safety and support economic growth.

Why an Expressway is needed in Kāpiti

The importance of improvement of the State Highway network throughout the Kāpiti district has been identified by a number of studies. The SH1 network faces a number of transportation issues throughout the district. These include:

  • Traffic characteristics

  • Safety

  • Population increases

  • Access, congestion and reliability

  • Route security

  • Freight movement

  • Amenity and social effects, including effects on walking and cycling

The focus of the State Highway network is on moving people and freight between and within the main centres of New Zealand as safely and efficiently as possible. The local network and community objectives and needs are also important in considering the need for the Project, given the dual function that SH1 currently provides. The Project therefore seeks to achieve an integrated network that also facilitates local trips and modal choice, while recognising that the transformation of current SH1 to a local road is the subject of a separate statutory process.

Project history

The Expressway route, between Te Kowhai Road in the south and Taylors Road in the north, is the culmination of extensive historical research and more recent investigations into an alternative route to SH1 through this area.

The Project is a key component of a number of national, regional and local transport strategies, policies and plans and forms part of the Wellington Northern Corridor RoNS.

The Expressway has arisen from decades of consideration as to the best way for the Kāpiti district to deal with growth, as well as providing a safe and efficient route through the district, leading both south to Wellington and north to Levin and beyond. Over time, alternatives to the existing SH1 have been referred to variously as a motorway, Expressway and arterial road. In 2010, at the outset of the current project phase, a detailed review of previous route alternatives was undertaken. A brief summary of this history is outlined below.

Plans for a motorway through the Kāpiti district began as early as 1956, when the Governor-General issued a mid-line proclamation for a "proposed motorway" between Paekakariki and Ōtaki (as part of the Wellington to Foxton Motorway). This route traversed coastal duneland from south of Paraparaumu to north of Levin and was previously referred to as the "Sandhills Route". However, in the late 1980s the mid-line proclamation from Peka Peka northwards was uplifted within the Kāpiti district.

As the only south to north route available through the Kāpiti district, SH1 carries all national, regional and local through traffic movements. Given predicted population growth in the district, as well as the general national increase in vehicle and trip numbers, traffic congestion, delays and accidents are expected to worsen. This scenario has been known for many years and there have been multiple studies undertaken to investigate efficient upgrades/alternatives to the existing State Highway network throughout the area, including those summarised below. 
In 1998, Transit NZ (the predecessor to the Transport Agency) commissioned Meritec to determine the most appropriate route and development options for SH1 between Himatangi (north of Foxton) and Waikanae. The two key options that were identified and considered were coastal and central routes, the central following the existing transport corridor along SH1. The Strategic Study report was completed in January 2000 and recommended a four-lane highway utilising the existing transport corridor between Levin and Waikanae. The study also recommended that the proposed strategy was publicised and presented to the Kāpiti  Coast District Council, Horowhenua District Council, community boards and other interested parties before confirmation of the strategy.

In 2001, Meritec were commissioned to complete a Scheme Assessment Report (SAR) for the section between Ōtaki and Peka Peka Road. The report was presented as two parts, comprising the Ōtaki Bypass and the Te Horo Expressway. Six route options and combinations of sub-options were assessed and presented in the SAR in relation to the central route, including detail around each of the options and their respective merits.

In 2003, following public consultation and further investigation into an alternative western route for the Kāpiti Expressway, (referred to as the Te Waka Road route), the Transit NZ Board approved a preferred central route following the eastern side of SH1 for both the Ōtaki bypass and the Te Horo Expressway. Transit NZ's Board chose not to designate the route at that time due to the likelihood that this section would not be constructed for some 15 years.

In 2005 Transit NZ, together with the Greater Wellington Regional Council commissioned a Western Corridor Study, to investigate the principal options for all transport modes in the region’s western transport corridor (Ngauranga to Ōtaki). The study confirmed the need to develop a four-lane alignment for SH1 from MacKays Crossing to north of Ōtaki as part of a series of multi-modal transportation improvements along this corridor. Following this, Transit NZ commissioned the State Highway 1 Kāpiti Strategic Study (undertaken by Opus) in 2007, which developed and assessed several options for upgrading SH1 within the Kāpiti district, including four-laning.

Between July 2008 and August 2009, the Study revisited the alignment approved by the Transit NZ Board in 2003 as part of a Strategic Study of the Kāpiti Coast. The importance of having a safe and efficient State Highway corridor through the Kāpiti district was confirmed in both of the following the studies undertaken:

  • Kāpiti Scoping Report by Opus, July 2008; and

  • Kāpiti Technical Report by Opus, August 2009.

 The 2009 report endorsed the alignment recommended in the 2003 SAR, and recommended further modifications. Modifications were made to remove the proposed interchange at Te Horo to limit growth pressures and to alter the on/off ramps around Ōtaki to improve access. Public engagement for this section was combined with the consultation on options for the M2PP section, and in December 2009 the Transport Agency Board restated a preference for the central route that follows the existing transport corridor, subject to further design refinements being undertaken.