The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) has welcomed the release of the Board of Inquiry's final decision to approve the regulatory consents applications lodged by the NZTA, Porirua City Council and Transpower for the Transmission Gully project.
The NZTA State Highway Manager Rod James said this will provide certainty for the project and will now allow the NZTA to progress it towards construction.
"This is a real milestone. This project has been talked about for nearly a century and this decision means we can put words into action. This project has a lot of public support and this will be very welcome news to many people in the region."
Mr James said that completing the Transmission Gully project will help to unlock economic growth potential and deliver a range of benefits for the region.
"The regional benefits include support for a growing population and increasing freight volumes, improved access to Wellington's port, the CBD, Wellington Airport and Wellington Hospital, relief from traffic congestion and improved road safety and journey time reliability."
"Every weekday morning and evening we can see that two lanes connecting Wellington to the north is simply not enough to meet our needs. Transmission Gully will make travel easier, safer, and less of a headache for ordinary motorists every day."
Mr James says freight volumes are projected to double in the next two decades, and Transmission Gully will be essential to enable the safe and efficient transportation of goods into and out of the city to support the growing population. The project would also make the transport links between Wellington and the north of the country more secure and resilient in the event of a natural disaster.
Mr James says the NZTA was committed to putting in place extensive safeguards to mitigate the environmental Impact of the project, and this had been reflected in the Board's decision.
"This work will include incorporating the additional measures required by the Board of Inquiry pertaining to increased mitigation for night-time traffic noise levels when the route is open for traffic. In this regard, the NZTA will be working with adjacent property owners on appropriate mitigation measures," he said.
The NZTA's application was lodged in August last year together with other regulatory applications from the Porirua City Council and Transpower for the project. The NZTA's application was for the main Transmission Gully route and the Kenepuru link road while the Porirua City Council's application was for the planned link roads from the Transmission Gully route into Whitby and Waitangirua. Transpower's application related to transmission tower relocation and strengthening that will be required along the Transmission Gully route as a result of the highway construction.
On 16 September 2011, the Minister for the Environment directed that the applications be referred to a Board of Inquiry for determination. The Board of Inquiry's hearing on the Transmission Gully applications was conducted from 13 February 2012 to 14 March 2012. The Board released its draft decision on 4 May 2012. The Board's final decision can be accessed on the website of the Environmental Protection Authority(external link).
The 27km Transmission Gully (MacKays to Linden) route is part of the Wellington Northern Corridor which runs from Levin to Wellington Airport. The Wellington Northern Corridor is one of seven 'roads of national significance' that the Government has identified as essential state highways which require upgrading to reduce congestion, improve safety and support economic growth in New Zealand.
An interchange will connect the Transmission Gully route to State Highway 58, with another interchange connecting to Porirua City Centre and Linden via the Kenepuru link road. In addition, two link roads will connect the eastern Porirua suburbs of Whitby and Waitangirua to the route via the planned James Cook interchange.
Public consultation in 2008 on the preferred route through Transmission Gully resulted in nearly 90% of respondents supporting the route now being progressed.
The new route is currently expected to cost $930 million to build - subject to method of procurement and market conditions at the time of tendering. Design refinements have enabled this cost to be brought down from an earlier estimate of $1.1b.
The current timetable for the Transmission Gully project has construction earmarked to start in 2015 and completed by 2021.
Extensive information about the Transmission Gully project, including the NZTA's EPA applications and supporting information, can be found at www.nzta.govt.nz/transmission-gully(external link).