Environment Waikato has called on Transport Minister Mark Gosche to immediately find the $30 million needed to complete the Longswamp section of State Highway One before more lives are lost.
Council chairman Neil Clarke and Regional Land Transport Committee chairman David Peart said at a meeting with the Minister in Hamilton today that to put off the job any longer would cost $13 million a year in direct costs, which included compliance and monitoring of the stalled section.
Mr Gosche travelled the highway between Auckland and Hamilton today to see for himself the problems faced by motorists on one of the busiest stretches of highway in the country.
Chairman Clarke said the work was ready to go and had the highest priority for the Region’s motorists. The costs of doing nothing were too high to stop the Mercer-Longswamp section now. They included the cost of accidents, travel time and vehicle operating costs, site stabilisation and monitoring costs to ensure the site was safe, re-consenting the project if the delay continued and the cost of re-starting the work after a delay.
“If this project is delayed for 16 months the cost will be around $13.4 million, and if it is delayed by up to three years the cost will rise to $40.4 million.”
“This does not include any lost opportunity to speed up economic growth in the Region. But more importantly we don’t want to see any more deaths and we need that money now to get the job done.”
Mr Clarke said Environment Waikato also had a long-term goal of having the whole expressway finished by 2010. Once the entire expressway is complete it is likely the Waikato could benefit by up to $500 million over 10 years once improvements are made to road transport links.
“The economic and social benefits are clear, not just for the Waikato Region but for the whole of the North Island.”
Environment Waikato has called a meeting of Waikato mayors and chief executives for Wednesday to form a task force to drive the project.
Mr Clarke said Environment Waikato was willing to co-ordinate and facilitate the process with all the parties involved to ensure the project was completed on a sound economic basis.
Mr Gosche said the decision would now be in Transit’s hands. He was aware of the strong demand for the expressway to be completed and the desire to have it done in a sensible, managed way.
“The board is going to have to make some rapid decisions, and they are working extremely hard to find a way through it.”