One of the many pleasures of the summer holidays is the chance to take stock of the country's highway developments.
Modern four-lane highways with divided carriageways and flyovers where crossroads used to be are splendid engineering and a smooth, safe pleasure to drive on at speed.
To drive on these new stretches of motorway north of Auckland or south through the Waikato is to wish much more of SH1 could be brought up to the same condition quickly. Though many major roading upgrades have been completed in recent years, we have had to wait a long time for them.
The Waikato Expressway is perhaps the best example. The Herald's transport reporter Bernard Orsman, in a series on roading progress last week reminded us the upgrading of SHI south of the Bombay Hills began in the early 1990s.
If new rural highways have brought some pleasant discoveries, Aucklanders returning to work in the central city today will find driving in its streets more frustrating than usual. Auckland Transport takes advantage of the holiday period to step up its maintenance programme.
The Herald on Sunday reported that no fewer than 33 streets in central Auckland are a maze of road cones and one-way lanes and likely to remain so for the rest of the month.
Road congestion is probably what springs to most people's minds when they hear that New Zealand has an "infrastructure deficit" after the rapid population growth of recent years.
The Government has announced an intention to spend big on infrastructure this year and expects to specify some projects next month. It will be giving priority to railways, cycleways and public transport to help reduce carbon emissions.
Road safety projects might get some additional funding but new motorways and highways are unlikely to be funded. Nor should they be. Our national highways and arterial roads are fully funded from petrol taxes and other user charges through the National Land Transport Fund allocated by the NZ Transport Agency. Secondary roads and urban streets are part-funded by the Government and part-funded by local authorities.
As the population increases so does the revenue from road uses and property development. This is a more economic and reliable way to fund infrastructure than sporadic government grants from general taxation. Let those grants go to worthy projects that cannot generate sufficient user charges.
So long as New Zealand continues to receive the net immigration gains seen for six or seven years now, it ought to be possible to step up the pace of highway improvements and make more road travel not faster and safer.
We can look forward to the day when divided carriageways are the norm on our state highways as they are in other developed countries. By then we will be driving electric cars of course.