The Waikato Expressway

The Waikato Expressway is a 94.5 kilometre-long upgrade of State Highway 1, starting at Mercer in the north to just south of Cambridge. It aims to provide a continuous divided four-lane highway between Auckland and Cambridge that will improve safety, reduce congestion and shorten travel time for the total journey by at least 20 minutes.

Nat_roads_5.jpgThe Government said before it was elected late last year that it would add $790 million to funds already earmarked for the expressway to ensure the toll-free project was completed within 10 years – by which time the route could be carrying up to 20,000 vehicles a day.

Some sections of the expressway have been four-laned already, and other improvements carried out, but the majority of the stages remain on the waiting list.

The four-laning of the 12 kilometres from Mercer to Longswamp was completed in 2006 at a cost of $82 million, and $10 million worth of interim safety improvements to the five kilometres between Longswamp and Te Kauwhata and the 4.5 kilometres of the Rangiriri bypass were completed in 2005. The improvements comprised better passing lanes and wire-rope median barriers.

Four-laning of Longswamp-Te Kauwhata is estimated to cost $40-$60 million and for the Rangiriri bypass $50-$70 million. Design of the Rangiriri bypass is underway.

Work on the 10 kilometre Rangiriri-south of Ohinewai section was completed in 2003 at a cost of $24 million. It included straightening of the highway, eliminating several curves and providing median barriers.

Design of the 15 kilometre Huntly bypass, which extends from south of Ohinewai to Taupiri, is due to start later this year. The project will require substantial earthworks over steep grades to cross the Taupiri Ranges, and a very steep cut at the summit. Four-laning is estimated to cost $450-$550 million.

A 12.5 kilometre Ngaruawahia bypass will initially connect to State Highway 1 at Taupiri in the north and to the beginning of a Te Rapa bypass at Horotiu the south. Future connections will be provided to the Huntly bypass to the north and the Hamilton bypass to the south. Design work began last year and is due to be completed late next year. The cost of four-laning has been estimated at $180-$220 million.

At 21 kilometres the Hamilton bypass (Horotiu-Tamahere) is the longest section of the expressway and at $550-$650 million for four lanes is the most expensive. Design is due to start later this year.

Routed east of Hamilton, the bypass will feature major connections to Hamilton at Horotiu, Puketaha and Tamahere. It will link with the existing four-laned expressway south of Hamilton, the Tamahere Deviation, and will provide ready access to Waikato airport.

Four-laning of the 3.8 kilometre section from Tamahere to a Cambridge bypass is estimated to cost $60-$70 million. Design is due to start later this year. It was originally designated as part of the Hamilton bypass but is now being managed as a separate project. It will connect to the Cambridge bypass with a grade-separated half-diamond interchange and will feature an overbridge at its northern end to connect two local roads.

Design of the 11 kilometre Cambridge bypass began in 2007 and the cost has been estimated at $140-$150 million for a stage one consisting of two lanes plus passing lanes, with the full four-laning expected to cost $180-$220 million. 

The route will pass north and east of Cambridge. There will be connections to the existing state highway at each end of the bypass to enable local traffic to turn on and off the expressway. These connections are expected to comprise half-diamond interchanges.

A full interchange is planned about midway along the bypass where it crosses State Highway 1B. Construction of this interchange is subject to further consultation and agreement with stakeholders. 

A six kilometre Te Rapa bypass of the existing State Highway 1 is now included in the Waikato Expressway. Design began in March this year. Estimated cost is $100 million-plus for two-laning and passing lanes. Construction is forecast to begin in 2010-11, subject to completion of land acquisition (currently underway), settlement of three appeals on the designation, and funding.

Te Rapa bypass will provide an inter-regional connection to the western corridor of Hamilton from the north and will support the rapid growth occurring in the north and northwestern areas of the city. It will include some four-laning of Avalon Drive and a roundabout at the northern end of the Avalon Drive bypass.

Next: The Tauranga Eastern Motorway
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Contractor Vol.33  No.5  June 2009
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