Work will start on the Huntly section of the Waikato Expressway this month after the first sod was turned on the $458 million project today.
The 15.2 kilometre Huntly section will connect the Ohinewai section of the expressway in the north to the Ngaruawahia section at Taupiri.
Transport Minister Hon Simon Bridges along with Whatumoana Paki, the son of the Maori King Tuheitia, turned the first sod on the project at a ceremony today that included Transport Agency and project staff, landowners and Waikato-Tainui.
The NZ Transport Agency project involves four million cubic metres of earthworks, including an 80 metre cutting through the Taupiri Range. It crosses near historically and ecologically significant habitat and reserves and has nine bridges including four crossing rivers and streams.
The Transport Agency has worked closely with Waikato Tainui to understand the environment and history along the entire expressway project and to ensure tangata whenua are involved throughout.
“As the Huntly section develops the insight we have gained through this relationship will unfold in the form of public artworks including pou and other urban design elements along the road,” Mrs Clark says.
“These features will transform the expressway from a four lane stretch of highway into a vehicle which also helps to tell Waikato’s stories.”
The Transport Agency and Waikato Tainui also announced the establishment of the Transport Agency- Waikato Tainui Heritage Protection Scholarship, at today’s ceremony.
The scholarship recognises the enduring relationship between the Transport Agency and Waikato Tainui and is for tribal members studying archaeology and heritage assessment and planning at a tertiary level.
“It’s an ideal opportunity for students in the area to increase their knowledge and enable them to take an active role in the future planning of projects like the Waikato Expressway,” says Mrs Clark
Waikato-Tainui Chief Executive Parekawhia McLean says she is very pleased that the Transport Agency continues to actively engage tribal members in all areas of the expressway.
The Huntly project provides for a kaiarahi embedded in the project team to work as a cultural monitor and an archaeological assistant working alongside project archaeologists to preserve and record any history uncovered in areas being crossed by the expressway.
Once complete the new stretch of road will significantly improve safety and shave approximately five minutes off the journey between Auckland and Hamilton.
Mrs Clark says the Huntly section is the fifth of seven sections that will make up the Waikato Expressway. “This section will improve safety and reliability, and reduce travel times and congestion.
“SH1 between Huntly and Hamilton is classified as the highest risk road in New Zealand, based on the number of fatal and serious injury crashes per kilometre.
“The new stretch of road has been designed to reduce the risk of those crashes. It will provide two lanes of traffic in each direction divided by a central barrier and various other measures, which will help to significantly improve safety for the 17,000 motorists who travel on the route every day.”
The project is being built by a joint venture between Fulton Hogan and HEB Construction alongside Jacobs, Opus International Consultants, Gaia Engineers and Bartley Consultants.