News one of the Bay of Plenty's biggest roading developments has been delayed another year has been met with outrage, sadness and resignation by the Tauranga community.
New Zealand Transport Agency Waka Kotahi confirmed last week the Baypark to Bayfair (B2B) Project, also known as BayLink, was now expected to be finished in December 2023 at a cost of $262 million.
Original estimates put the cost at $120m and the finish date in 2020. Most recent estimates pegged the cost at $146m and a completion date in 2022.
Tauranga MP Simon Bridges said he was "really saddened" by the ongoing project delays.
"Construction was started when I was Transport Minister and that seems a long time ago now."
Bridges was there to turn the first sod of the project in 2017. In 2019, the project completion date was revised to mid-to-late 2021.
Original plans for the project did not include the popular pedestrian and cyclist underpass near Bayfair Shopping Centre, but community action changed this and last year the transport agency confirmed it would build a new underpass at a cost of $26m. This is included in the $262m total costs.
Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller believed the project should have always had an underpass.
He said by the time the project was completed, it would not be sufficient for the amount of traffic there would be.
"If they haven't done four lanes, [on the flyover bridges] it won't be big enough. For the scale of the build, they should be building it for four lanes. I'd be bloody disappointed if they don't."
The project includes a two-lane flyover bridge at the intersection of SH2/Maunganui Rd and Girven Rd, similar to the Hewletts Rd flyover. This will be supported by two separated lanes on either side of the flyover to help with traffic flow.
Greater Tauranga's Sue McArthur said, in her opinion, the project would not deliver any significant benefits for Bay of Plenty people.
McArthur believed the benefits for travel time savings and safety would hardly be worth the estimated cost of the project.
A motorist who commutes from Pāpāmoa to Tauranga each day said she no longer travelled through the roadworks as she had become "sick of it" and the congestion was "awful".
The woman, who would not be named, said she now travelled through Welcome Bay and knew of others who did the same. She said she doubted the project would make much difference in travel times due to the city's swelling population.
Eversham Rd resident Michael Parry lives right on the boundary of the construction site and has done for 30 years.
While his patience was wearing thin with the project, he was also resigned to the constant vibrations, noise and dust.
"That's just a fact of life but it's probably getting to the stage where I've had enough of it. The entrance is right next door to where I live."
Parry said he just had to get on with it as "there's not much we can do really".
"I do believe they are trying their best."
Parry said he received regular emails informing him of updates and there was a water truck that regularly watered the site to keep dust levels down.
"That dust, it gets everywhere."
Transport agency acting portfolio delivery manager Jo Wilton said in response to Muller's concerns at the project's lane layout that a primary objective was to separate state highway and local traffic.
"The flyovers are designed to improve efficiency and resiliency for freight traffic to the Port of Tauranga. Separating heavy freight vehicles, in particular, from local traffic will greatly improve safety and overall traffic flow."
When asked how the project was future-proofed for the region's increasing population, Wilton said traffic modelling was undertaken as part of the project design.
"While overall population growth in the region has been more significant than anticipated, design of the project is still expected to make a considerable difference to overall traffic flow upon project completion."
Wilton said the project was "only one piece of a much bigger picture" and was being built in a time when there was a shifting focus on transport and immense population growth across the region.
"Increasing the share of travel by public transport, walking and cycling is a priority for the Government. From a regional perspective, Waka Kotahi is working in partnership with [local authorities] to deliver the Transport System Plan, a strategy aimed at better preparing the region for population growth."
The Transport System Plan was aimed at helping alleviate strain on the region's arterial routes, and also highlighted that building more roads was only part of the solution, Wilton said.
"Infrastructure alone cannot solve the region's congestion problems. Behavioural change is equally important and we need to consider how we can better encourage people to change their travel habits."