Two major Auckland roading projects reach milestones today with a fresh upgrade starting on a stretch of the Southern Motorway, and the completion of work on a vital airport link.
Transport Minister Michael Wood today unveiled a new leg of construction on the New Zealand Upgrade Programme's Papakura to Drury South project which is expected to take five years to finish.
The improvements will see a third lane in each direction, wide shoulders for future bus lanes and a shared path along the western side to eventually link into a city-wide network.
It came as Wood announced the completion of a $72million upgrade to State Highway 20B, enabling quick electric bus trips to and from the airport and hailing the start of a rapid transport link between south and east Auckland.
The transport minister said the new State Highway 20B Early Improvements project had added new lanes between Pukaki Creek Bridge and SH20 for buses and vehicles carrying three or more people. A shared path had also been built to give Aucklanders more options for getting to the airport, work, schools and shops.
"Thanks to the SH20B upgrades, the travel time between Puhinui Station and the airport on the Airport Link electric bus will only be around 10 minutes. Work to upgrade Puhinui Station to an efficient, modern and user-friendly rail and bus interchange is expected to finish in June," said Wood.
He hailed the fast bus service as the "first step" to connecting up South and East Auckland with good public transport. The route would eventually become part of a rapid transit route connecting to Manukau and Botany with a dedicated busway or possibly light rail.
"The airport is one of the largest employment hubs in Auckland with more than 900 businesses around it – these upgrades will make it easier for thousands of Aucklanders to get to and from work. It'll also help Kiwis and visitors avoid pre-flight congestion as air travel picks up."
In announcing the start of the roading project, Wood said when completed it was expected to increase transport choices and improve local road connections across the motorway.
"This project will mean a quicker and safer commute for many, as well as make the route more resilient with enhanced flood and seismic protections. The shared path will give more people the option to leave the car at home, helping to reduce congestion."
The upgrade programme would also see large-scale job creation and a boost to the country's economic recovery.
"About 750 construction staff are expected to be working at some point on the first stage of Papakura to Drury South. Around 110 people are already working on the project, helping to boost South Auckland's economy," said Wood.
Wood said the start of the latest New Zealand Upgrade Programme was a significant milestone for the programme, which was investing more than $6.8 billion in road, rail, public transport and walking and cycling infrastructure to get our cities moving, save lives and future-proof the economy.
"The second Auckland, and thirteenth overall, NZUP transport project starting construction is a significant milestone for the programme, which is investing more than $6.8 billion in road, rail, public transport and walking and cycling infrastructure to get our cities moving, save lives and future-proof the economy.
"NZUP will play a vital role in our economic recovery. Our transport investments will have major flow-on effects – it'll support around 1,400 direct full-time jobs for each year of the programme and support an estimated 5,200 jobs in the wider supply chain and economy."
He said the Papakura to Drury South project would be consented and constructed in phases over the next five years.
The first stage works were within the existing motorway boundaries from the north side of Papakura interchange to the BP motorway service centre north of Otūwairoa (Slippery) Creek.
They would extend additional lanes being investigated for potential use for T3 and freight. Further stages would be lodged and consented progressively across 2021 and 2022.
When first announced the upgrade was expected to cost around $423 million.