A 16km extension of the Waikato Expressway south to Piarere is one step closer - but still many years away from being built - after the Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency board last week endorsed a business case for the project.
The expressway currently finishes south of Cambridge. The long-awaited extension will connect SH29 at the planned new Piarere roundabout, the construction of which Waka Kotahi announced in mid-June to replace the dangerous T-intersection of State Highway 1 and State Highway 29.
The roundabout will be to the northwest of the existing intersection.
It is one of the Waikato's most notorious intersections and the expressway extension had been earmarked by the National government but was axed by Labour when it took power in 2017.
Waka Kotahi regional manager system design Jess Andrew said last week that endorsing the business case for the extension – which includes an interchange near Karapiro Road – means work can now progress to protect the preferred route.
However, no funding has been allocated for construction of the extension which is expected to cost $635 million. No work on the project is expected until later in the decade, Waka Kotahi says.
"There is no funding available in the National Land Transport Programme (NLTP) to prioritise this project for detailed design and construction before the 2027–2030 period," a statement from the agency says.
"Route protection is a very important step to ensure we are ready to proceed if and when funding is made available."
However, the new SH1-SH29 roundabout project - part of the important transport corridor between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga - is continuing as planned.
Lodgement of designation and consents is expected to happen later this year, with construction expected to start in 2022, subject to negotiations on property acquisition and RMA proceedings, Waka Kotahi says.
Regional manager infrastructure delivery Jo Wilton says the roundabout will improve safety on a high-volume traffic route.
"This intersection is among the most dangerous on the New Zealand roading network. The new roundabout will ensure that all traffic has a safe and efficient way of making any type of movement, be it straight ahead or turning.
"Vehicle speeds in roundabouts is significantly lower, which minimises the impact of any crash that might still occur."
The preferred site considers a number of factors, including initial technical assessments of stormwater, ecology, archaeology and geotechnical information.
Discussions with affected landowners are continuing, as is the finalisation of the detailed technical assessments required to complete design.
For the expressway extension, Andrew said the Notice of Requirement will be prepared and lodged under the Resource Management Act.
"This will offer property owners, businesses and the community certainty on where the transport route will be in the future," she says.
"Route protection will enable people to make informed decisions about their own land and the development of that land."
The application will also involve the lodgement of regional consents to address the requirements of the Waikato Regional Council. It is planned to submit these in the later part of 2022, subject to completing RMA assessments as scheduled.
"As part of developing the applications, further consultation and discussions with landowners, mana whenua, local government, the community, and local businesses will continue.
"There will be opportunities for the community to get involved soon."
Once route protection is secured, the next stages, after funding is confirmed, include detailed design, tendering and construction.
Further information, including the Detailed Business Case, is available here.