Traffic in Hamilton's north and west has had a smoother run to work this morning with the official opening of the Te Rapa section of the Waikato Expressway Road of National Significance.
Prime Minister John Key formally opened the 8km Te Rapa section, now called Mangaharakeke Drive, as part of a community event on Saturday December 1 to celebrate the completion of the project.
The new length of State Highway 1, which stretches from Horotiu, north of Hamilton, to Avalon Drive in the city’s northwest, opened to traffic this morning (Monday December 3).
NZTA Waikato Bay of Plenty Regional Director Harry Wilson said the $194 million project has been delivered six months ahead of schedule and significantly under budget by the Te Rapa Alliance, made up of The NZ Transport Agency, Opus International Consultants and contractors Fulton Hogan.
Mr Wilson said the completion of Mangaharakeke Drive was a significant milestone in the construction of the entire Waikato Expressway project.
“This is an important piece of infrastructure not only for Hamilton but also for the Waikato region and for New Zealand, as it is central to providing safer and more efficient transport links between the business and freight hubs of Waikato, Auckland and Tauranga,” Mr Wilson says.
“Importers, exporters, tourism operators and commuters will also all benefit from have faster more efficient connections between the Waikato and Auckland.”
Mr Wilson said the NZTA had worked closely with key stakeholders Hamilton City Council and Waikato District Council to ‘future proof’ this length of the Waikato Expressway to ensure that is fully integrated into the city and region’s long term development plans.
Mangaharakeke Drive will improve traffic flows through the city’s northern entrance and open up industrial and commercial development opportunities for the city and surrounding district, he said.
Mr Wilson said the first vehicles travelled over the road at about 6:00 a.m. this morning.
“It's a great sight after all of the hard work that has gone into delivering this project ahead of schedule and under budget. Traffic is moving smoothly in both directions, the NZTA has clear signage in place and traffic controllers on point duty to help ensure that motorists understand the new layout. However, we do ask that people plan their journeys before leaving home to avoid making last minute decisions around the new route.”
The traffic signals at the Gilchrist intersection are now operating.
Drivers are asked to take care at Horotiu, traffic leaving the expressway heading north will be merging onto State Highway 1 at Horotiu.