Puhoi to Wellsford
Though four-laning of the 34 kilometre section of State Highway 1 from Puhoi to Wellsford has achieved urgency through being named one of the seven Roads of National Significance, completion could be 15 years away.
A construction start could be as distant as five years from now because of the amount of preparatory work to be done, such as options, design, consents and purchases.
Construction is likely to be split into two sections, each estimated to take up to five years. The first would be from the far end of the Orewa-Puhoi Northern Gateway toll road to Warkworth (pop. 2800), and the second from Warkworth to Wellsford (pop. 1750).
Roading construction costs for far-off starts are notoriously difficult to estimate and climb by the year. But even in vague 2009 dollar terms the likely Puhoi-Wellsford four-laning bill is enough to alarm taxpayers – anything from $1-2 billion.
This figure gives rise to the prospect of a public-private partnership and a tolled road, and will mean close scrutiny of the expected benefits – providing a safer route and faster travel times between Auckland and Northland (170km to Whangarei), making it easier to move freight and people between the two regions, and boosting community growth, tourism and economic development north of Auckland.
Ironically, traffic bottlenecks at Puhoi caused by the new Northern Gateway have increased the pressure to four-lane Puhoi to Wellsford.
Reaction to the project’s priority rating has been more enthusiastic in Northland than in Auckland.
The New Zealand Herald pointed out it could mean motorists taking the most direct route from Auckland to Northland would have to pay a second toll after passing through the Northern Gateway. Under the Government’s criteria, for a toll road to operate there must be an alternative free route – in this case State Highway 16.
Whangarei MP and Minister for Housing and Fisheries Phil Heatley says the benefits to Northland of the extended State Highway1 four-laning would be massive. “State Highway 1 is the main artery to the North and it’s so important we get the next stage going,” he told Whangarei’s Northern Advovcate.
He says he was shocked that the previous Government had done no major planning for Puhoi-Wellsford. “There’s been no land designation and no property purchases [of land needed]… I would have thought some of that work would have been done already.”
Heatley said the upgrading of State Highway 1 all the way to Whangarei and further north had to happen eventually.
Northland’s head of economic development Brian Roberts says the prioritising of the Puhoi-Wellsford four-laning was “fantastic news” for the region as it would make it more accessible to the world. The opening of the Northern Gateway had probably shaved 15 minutes off the Auckland-Whangarei journey and the Puhoi-Wellsford upgrade could reduce the travel time by another 15 minutes.
Contractor Vol.33 No.5 June 2009