The NZ Transport Agency's newest motorway, connecting the Southern [SH1] and Southwestern [SH20] Motorways at Manukau City, was officially opened today by the Minister of Transport, Hon Steven Joyce.
The SH20-1 Manukau Extension cost $220m and has taken four years to construct.
The 4.5 kilometre-long motorway eliminates 12 sets of traffic signals and will create immediate benefits, especially for drivers of commercial and heavy vehicles, says the NZTA’s Regional Director for Auckland and Northland, Wayne McDonald.
“There will be fewer stops and starts because of traffic signals, less wear and tear on vehicles, and smoother and quicker travel times in a motorway environment,” adds Mr McDonald. “And everyone – drivers, cyclists and pedestrians - will benefit from the reduced congestion around Manukau city streets.”
At the ribbon cutting, Mr Joyce was accompanied by the Mayor of Manukau, Len Brown, representatives from local iwi, and officials from the NZTA and its principal contractor on the project, Leighton Works. The official opening was preceded by a ceremony at dawn conducted by local iwi, who blessed the new motorway.
Mr McDonald says the motorway extension is also an important step in making sure that New Zealand will be ready to host the Rugby World Cup next year.
“Transport will play an important part on the success of the tournament and with the Cup little more than a year away, the timing of today’s opening is perfect,” says Mr McDonald. “The extension will greatly improve access to and from Auckland International Airport for the 85,000 visitors arriving in the country for the tournament.”
Mr McDonald says the Manukau Extension, together with the duplicate motorway bridge over the Manukau Harbour [opened last month] and the Mt Roskill Extension [opened 2009], gives rugby fans another choice for access to Eden Park and other grounds south and north of the city.
Mr McDonald says the project not only benefits road users but will lead to public transport improvements as well. Leightons completed earthworks for the construction of the Manukau rail link next to the motorway, and the NZTA is contributing to the funding of city’s rail station and adjacent bus station.
“Together the new highway and the rail and bus links are significant transport improvements for a region of Auckland that is growing in strategic and economic importance,” Mr McDonald says.
The Manukau Extension is the southern gateway to the Western Ring Route – the alternative motorway to SH1 and the Auckland Harbour Bridge that will eventually link Manukau to Albany on Auckland’s North Shore via State Highways 20, 16 and 18.
The NZTA says that there is still work to be done before drivers can enjoy the full benefit of the new motorway, and it will be opened to traffic in three stages before Christmas.
From tomorrow [Sunday 29 August] people will be able to use the southbound lanes. There will however, be speed restrictions in place and some overnight closures and diversions to complete final highway surfacing.
If the weather is bad, Sunday’s opening to traffic will be postponed until the next fine night.
Lanes for those heading west and north open a month later, and the overall project will be completed in December after a section of the Puhinui Stream is diverted.
The NZTA is conducting an extensive educational campaign, featuring former rugby league star Ruben Wiki, to inform drivers about road layout changes linked to the staged opening of the motorway. More information is available at 0800 SH20-2-1 (0800 742 021) or www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/manukauextension(external link).
“It is important that people drive with care for their own safety and the safety of those still working to complete the motorway,” says Mr McDonald.
Today’s opening was followed by an open day to give the local community the opportunity to walk and cycle the new motorway before it opens to traffic.
“We’ve valued the support we’ve had from the people of Manukau over the past four years and the open day is our way of saying thank you to them,” says Mr McDonald.