Paying a road toll could be a reality for the next 20 odd years for the region, on both Takitimu Drive and the Tauranga Eastern Link, the transport agency has confirmed.
The Bay of Plenty is home to two of the three toll roads in New Zealand, which collectively brought in $16,823,000 in both 2018 and 2019.
But one Tauranga political candidate has raised her hand to fight for an alternative.
Under the Land Transport Management Act 2003, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) can establish the funding mechanism enabling users of a road to contribute to its cost over time.
Tauranga Eastern Link was established as a toll road in 2015 and in this instance was used to leverage loans, enabling the road to be built quicker.
Now the revenue collected from Tauranga Eastern Link is used to repay the loans.
Takitimu Drive, formerly known as Route K, was purchased by NZTA from Tauranga City Council in 2015 and became a State Highway.
The purpose of the toll on Takitimu Drive is to repay the cost of its purchase to the National Land Transport Fund.
The estimated year, when the debt will be fully paid for each of the toll roads, is 2044 for the Tauranga Eastern Link and 2041 for Takitimu Drive - including the $65 million paid to council plus recovered opportunity costs.
NZTA system design senior manager Robyn Elston said the debt would take a long time to be repaid because the toll needed to be set at a level where people still used the road.
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"Tolling was utilised to fund the roads much sooner than would have otherwise been possible. There was considerable public support for the tolling in Tauranga.
"During 2009, public were consulted on whether they supported Tauranga Eastern Link being a toll road so construction could start up to 10 years earlier. Tolling received significant community support - 92 per cent both conditional and unconditional."
But Tauranga's NZ First candidate, Erika Harvey, believes the toll roads need to go to decrease traffic congestion in the city.
"Roading and infrastructure will take time and planning to deliver on, but in the interim we also need to lock in quick wins for our city.
"Alleviating the tolls would drastically increase traffic flow especially to and from Tauriko and Pyes Pa to the CBD."
She believed the elimination of the tolls would remove congestion from Cameron Rd, "especially in Greerton".
But it wouldn't change the need to support a multi-modal transport system, Tauranga City Council infrastructure general manager Nic Johansson believes.
If it were to become an option, Johansson said the council would need to investigate how traffic volumes might be impacted in places like Greerton, Barkes corner, Elizabeth St and elsewhere.
"We would need to respond with appropriate measures to ensure bottlenecks are not just moved around."
While it was not a solution, Harvey said it was also "too costly" for residents to use the toll every day and alternative infrastructure projects would take time.
However, other candidates say the public voted for the toll roads in the first place.
Tauranga's National MP Simon Bridges pointed to the fact "most" people were supportive of tolling at the time of consultation to bring the construction forward but did not support further tolling in the region.
Bridges was transport minister in 2015 when the Tauranga Eastern Link was opened.
"I don't support further tolling in the Bay of Plenty until there are more toll roads around the rest of New Zealand but it should be remembered that the reason we have toll roads here is because over the last decade or so we have seen more new highways built than anywhere else."
Without the toll, Labour's Jan Tinetti said taxpayers would have to "kick in" for the road or other projects could be cut to pay for it.
"Rather than a single, narrow suggestion, central and local government are already advanced in the planning to taking a long term, joint approach to building the infrastructure to help ease congestion through the Urban Form and Transport Initiative."
But as a regular driver through Greerton, Top candidate Andrew Caie said he "absolutely" agreed.
"This is exactly the type of issue where we should demand accountability from the Government.
"We should be asking NZTA to also consider traffic flow within suburbs while making these decisions, but any politicians making specific promises are just vote-buying at others' expense and we've been on the wrong side of this before."
The Green Party's plan for traffic congestion was to ramp up public transport and fuel-efficient cars, Green candidate Josh Cole said.
"The climate crisis demands this. We need to think ahead and buses to be more viable."
The Outdoors Party candidate Tracy Livingston asked why should Tauranga be lumbered with two toll roads.
"The road was designed just to get trucks to port but Tauranga has grown so fast it needs to be repurposed - free it up and ease congestion."
Tracy said instead of endless "dormitory" suburban growing outwards, it was time to go "back to the future" and re-create towns designed for humans, not cars.
Act Party candidate Cameron Luxton and New Conservatives Party candidate Paul Hignett did not respond to request for comments.