A $520 million roading package has been announced for Tauranga today.
The project is expected to transform State Highway 2 (SH2) between Tauranga and Waihi. Part of it will bypass Bethlehem, one of the city's busiest and most congested stretches of road.
The package includes the $286m Tauranga Northern Link (TNL); $85m worth of safety improvements designed to reduce death and serious injury crashes; and up to $150 million to provide for future traffic growth, paving the way for an upgrade between Omokoroa and Te Puna. Article continues below
Transport Minister Simon Bridges said this was a significant transport investment for Tauranga and the wider Bay of Plenty area.
''It will improve safety, reduce congestion and support growth on what is a very busy route, making a noticeable difference for motorists and easing freight movement," Mr Bridges, who is also Tauranga's MP, said.
"We know that transport is an enabler of economic activity so we need to continue unlocking key congestion points to get people and freight moving efficiently around the country."
The TNL is a new 6.8 km highway which will connect Tauranga's Takitimu Drive Toll Road with SH2 Te Puna.
"The TNL is a long awaited project in the Tauranga community. Last week I attended a public meeting to hear the views of local people and it's clear there's a lot of support for getting this project underway.
"Once complete it will reduce traffic through the busy townships of Bethlehem and Te Puna, provide a better commute into the city, and support the Western Bay's many industries.
"Today I'm also announcing that $150 million has been earmarked for a future extension of the TNL. A business case for extending the TNL from Te Puna to Omokoroa is expected to be completed toward the middle of next decade.
Once complete it will reduce traffic through the busy townships of Bethlehem and Te Puna, provide a better commute into the city, and support the Western Bay's many industries.
"All up this means the TNL will provide a four lane highway linking Tauranga's Takitimu Drive Toll Road with SH2 at Omokoroa," Mr Bridges said.
The safety improvement work will be targeted at high-risk areas on SH2 between Waihi and Te Puna. It will include median and side barriers, and intersection improvements designed to reduce head-on and intersection crashes, which are over represented in this area.
"This is a major transport package that will support population growth in areas such as Omokoroa and Te Puna, allowing for any future upgrades to improve capacity as they are needed.
"This latest investment follows a $12 million package of safety works that have been rolled out on SH2 as the Government finalised a long term plan for the route.
"Work on the safety improvements and TNL starts now, with construction set for 2016 and 2018 respectively," Mr Bridges said.