Bay receives 63 per cent boost in road funding

By Julia Proverbs

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Around $800 million will be spent on the Bay of Plenty's land transport system over the next three years - 63 per cent more than in the last funding round.

The New Zealand Transport Agency yesterday announced the 2012-2015 National Land Transport programme (NLTP) to improve the efficiency and safety of the roading network, maximise freight movements and reduce deaths and serious injuries on the roads.

This includes about $300 million towards the ongoing construction of the Tauranga Eastern Link.

In the previous three-yearly funding round, $490 million was allocated to the Bay's land transport system.

NZTA regional director Harry Wilson said it demonstrated a "substantial increase in investment for the Bay of Plenty region overall - reflecting the region as a key contributor to New Zealand's economy".

It would ensure the Eastern Link - aimed at reducing the length of the journey for freight and other road users and provide long-term benefits - stayed on track for completion in 2016.

"The construction of the Tauranga Eastern Link also provides more immediate benefits, such as real jobs for real people," Mr Wilson added.

Other regional highlights included:

$265 million for maintenance, operations and renewals, including $136 million on local roads, an increase of 5 per cent.

Progression of improvement projects, including the Maunganui-Girven intersection, Hairini link - Stage 4 and the Rotorua Eastern Arterial.

Delivery of the Safe Journeys action plan as part of the development of State Highway 2 North and State Highway 29 (on the eastern side of the Kaimais) safe systems programmes.

$15.5 million for the operation of the Bay of Plenty passenger transport network.

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said the Bay of Plenty had benefited from a strong relationship with the New Zealand Transport Agency. The region had been able to catch up and plan ahead for its transport needs, he said.

All Tauranga's "big projects" had received funding, he added.

"From a national perspective we have done very well."

Priorities for Tauranga were the Maunganui Road and Girven Road intersection at Bayfair, the intersection of State Highway 2 and State Highway 29 at Te Maunga and the Welcome Bay underpass to funnel Welcome Bay motorists directly onto the Hairini causeway, Mr Crosby said.

The northern arterial, which was "further out", was making "quiet progress".

Further discussions on the ownership of Route K and the widening of 15th Avenue and Turret Road to four lanes to feed into the Welcome Bay underpass and Fraser Street were likely to take place before Christmas.

"We will keep working well into the future," Mr Crosby said.

Priority One strategic projects manager Greg Simmonds said an effective transport system was "absolutely critical" for business in the region.

He reiterated that the investment in the region's roads reflected a good relationship with central government, particularly through the SmartGrowth strategy. "I think it's significant, particularly as we develop as a key national freight and logistics hub, as a region. The funding reflects that this region is a key contributor to the national economy."

The NLTP is a partnership between local authorities and the NZTA.

The investment in the Bay of Plenty is part of a $12.28 billion investment nationwide.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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