The NZ Transport Agency has today announced a multimillion dollar transport package to boost economic growth and safety throughout the Manawatu/Whanganui region, including nearly quarter of a billion dollars on the upkeep of the regional roading network.
NZTA Regional Director Central Jenny Chetwynd says today’s announcement of the National Land Transport Programme for 2012-15 includes an investment of $230m for the day to day upkeep of the region’s roads over the next three years, of which an unprecedented $185m will be targeted towards local roads. The package also includes regional funds to shore up the Saddle Road alternative route for the Manawatu Gorge, and replace the Whakaruatapu Bridge north of Dannevirke.
Ms Chetwynd says improving safety and economic productivity south of Palmerston North were also high on the agenda. Further investment will enable progress to be made in investigating significant safety improvements on the Otaki to Levin section of the Wellington Northern Corridor road of national significance, signalled earlier this year.
‘We announced our decision earlier this year to make extensive safety improvements between Otaki and Levin, and over the next three years we’ll be investigating these improvements further and moving closer to the design phase.’
Investment will also enable improvements to be made to the state highway between Manawatu/Whanganui and Wellington to carry high productivity motor vehicles (HPMVs).
’The HPMV improvements recognise the indispensable role that the Manawatu region plays as a bustling freight hub. Improving these routes to cater for larger, more productive vehicles will result in money, fuel and time saved, and safety gains from fewer journeys.
‘Freight is about much more than just trucks. Improving the productivity of freight has flow on benefits for the whole region and beyond - it makes local producers more competitive, it supports employment, and it efficiently gets our groceries from the farm to the distribution centre to the supermarket shelf.
Ms Chetwynd says the investment will also see an upgrade to the Saddle Road.
‘The last year has demonstrated the importance to the region’s economy of having a more resilient alternative route to the Manawatu Gorge, and this investment package will help us to improve the condition of the Saddle Road. This will help to give the region confidence that a sturdier route exists in the event of the gorge closing in future years.’
‘We will also be replacing the Whakaruatapu Bridge on SH2 north of Dannevirke to make journeys safer along this narrow and winding piece of road.’
Ms Chetwynd says safety remains a top priority, and that targeted investment will be focused on addressing high-risk sections of road to help bring down the region’s worrying road toll.
‘The number of people losing life on our region’s roads is a real ongoing tragedy, and a big focus over the next few years is identifying where the risks are, what the root causes of these crashes are, and targeting these areas to turn this around.’
Ms Chetwynd says the investment package will provide for a wide-ranging safety improvement programme, including road widening north of Shannon, intersection upgrades in Palmerston North and stock effluent disposal facilities to minimise the dangerous effects of effluent spill on the network.
The programme also includes ongoing investment in Palmerston North’s highly efficient public transport service.
The investment in Manawatu/Whanganui is part of a $12.28 billion investment in New Zealand’s land transport system set out in the 2012-15 National Land Transport Programme (NLTP), including $9.38 billion from the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF). The NLTP is a partnership between local authorities (who invest funding from ratepayers and prioritise activities and projects for funding) and the NZTA (which develops the programme and invests NLTF funds collected from road users through vehicle registration fees and fuel taxes.
Ms Chetwynd says the 2012-15 NLTP follows the direction outlined in the Government Policy Statement on land transport funding (GPS), with a focus on creating transport solutions that will support economic growth, improve safety, provide people with a range of transport choices and deliver the best possible value for money.
Ms Chetwynd says that while the 2012-15 NLTP represents a significant investment in New Zealand’s transport system, with the country facing tight economic conditions, not all proposed activities could be funded.
‘We’ve been working closely with local and regional councils to ensure that funding is carefully targeted to the areas and the activities where it is needed the most and where it will deliver the best outcomes for the greatest number of people in the region,’ Ms Chetwynd says.
The preparation of the 2012-15 NLTP has been informed by 16 regional transport committees and Auckland Transport developing and submitting regional land transport programmes outlining activities to be prioritised for NLTP funding.
Ms Chetwynd says the NZTA will continue working closely with councils in the Manawatu and Whanganui regions as the NLTP is implemented over the next three years.
National and regional NLTP documents, Q&As and other information is available on the NZTA website at www.nzta.govt.nz/nltp(external link).