The Regional Land Transport Committee has today strongly affirmed its commitment to the current Waikato Expressway programme after Land Transport New Zealand asked for more information and work before it could commit funds. The committee includes representatives of all of Waikato’s territorial authorities and the regional council.
Committee chairman Norm Barker of Environment Waikato said the fact the Waikato again had the highest number of road deaths last year highlighted the need to get on with the expressway as fast as possible.
There were 90 road deaths in the regional council’s area last year, with Auckland having the next highest total at 61, according to figures presented to the committee today. Since 2003, either Auckland or Waikato have had the worst records nationally. This year, up until today, there had been another 14 confirmed road deaths in Waikato.
But the committee was told that Land Transport New Zealand wanted more information on the expressway proposals, including the proposed Hamilton Eastern and Huntly bypasses, and that it needed to be shown clearly how expressway plans would be integrated with the Hamilton Sub-Regional Growth Strategy currently under development.
While they agreed that extra information should be supplied to Land Transport NZ, committee members expressed strong concern that these requirements could add significantly to the time it takes to get funding approved for expressway and other roading projects. They affirmed their commitment to the current roading projects outlined in the Regional Land Transport Strategy, and said this message must be sent clearly to the Government and the Land Transport NZ board.
Transit NZ and Land Transport NZ representatives indicated the extra information requested would not necessarily lead to big delays on funding decisions and Cr Barker said the region would do what was required to make sure Land Transport NZ gives the necessary money.
“But the mood of the meeting was that the region is not prepared to put up with any unnecessary bureaucratic delays to projects that will help save lives, make the Waikato more economically efficient and reduce traveling times,” said Cr Barker.
“This region and the committee have put in a huge amount of work on formulating the Regional Land Transport Strategy and it’s time to just get on with things as quickly as possible.”
Meanwhile, there was some positive news of progress on several major roading projects in the region, including the East Taupo Arterial project, which will let state highway 1 bypass Taupo, and an indication that the Mangatawhiri deviation on state highway 2 could be finished earlier than scheduled.
“The East Taupo Arterial tender process is in full swing with interactive tender meetings having commenced, and tenders are closing at the end of May 2008,” Cr Barker said.
The committee was told that, besides improving infrastructure, there were a number of successful regional projects aimed at tackling road safety.
Over summer, campaigns targeted speed, drink driving, fatigue and driver inattention.
For example, driver fatigue is thought to be responsible for up to 20 per cent of fatalities on state highway 2 between Pokeno and Mangatarata. There was a major campaign over summer involving activities such as billboards and distributing information to drivers waiting at the Kopu Bridge, and campaign awareness surveys were carried out.
“Early indications show that a majority of those surveyed could recall a campaign message and accurately explain a fatigue management technique,” a report to the committee said.
Agencies were also working to develop a strategy to tackle the unexplained upward trend in crashes around Taupo, the report said.