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The Waikato Expressway is a key strategic transport corridor for the Waikato region, connecting Auckland to the agricultural and business centres of the central North Island. It will improve economic growth and productivity through safer, more efficient movement of people and freight.

When completed, the Waikato Expressway will improve safety, reliability and reduce travel times and congestion on State Highway 1 (SH1) by delivering a four-lane highway from the Bombay Hills to south of Cambridge.

Why are you proposing a new speed limit of 110km/h on Waikato Expressway?

The Government invests heavily in our transport system and has upgraded many state highways with a focus on making them safer and more efficient.

Some of the more recently completed sections of the Waikato Expressway are built to very high safety standards. Because these roads have features that make it safer for travelling at higher speeds, the speed limit may be set to a higher limit than other state highways.

How did you decide on the proposed speeds?

A 110km/h speed limit will only apply to stretches of road built to a standard where the higher speed limit is considered both safe and appropriate. This includes having at least two lanes in each direction, a central median barrier and no significant curves. When completed, the Waikato Expressway, between Hampton Downs to south of Cambridge will meet the necessary design and safety standards for a 110km/h travel speed.

When will all of the Waikato Expressway be 110km/h

Changing speed limits is a legal process and all speed reviews undertaken by Waka Kotahi are developed and delivered in line with the Speed Management Guide and the Setting of Speed Limits Rule.

There are numerous steps we need to carefully follow. Once we have completed the analysis of the consultation submissions, and our technical review, we’ll be able to finalise and communicate the outcome of the speed review.

What sections of the Waikato Expressway are designed or operating at 110km/h?

Following consultation in late 2017 the Cambridge section of the Waikato Expressway speed limit was increased to 110km/h.

The Huntly, Longswamp and Rangiriri sections of the Waikato Expressway have been designed and built to be safely driven at 110km/h.

The Hamilton section, which is due to open in 2022, will also able to be safely driven at 110km/h.

Waka Kotahi is now preparing to upgrade the remaining sections; Ōhinewai, Hampton Downs, Ngaruawahia and Tamahere so when finished, from Hampton Downs to south of Cambridge, the Waikato Expressway will meet the necessary design and safety standards for a 110km/h speed limit.

Where else in NZ can you travel 110km/h?

The first state highways Waka Kotahi increased the speed limit to 110km/h were the Tauranga Eastern Link Toll Road (State Highway 2), and the Cambridge section of the Waikato Expressway (State Highway 1). 

How is Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency legally allowed to set these speed limits?

Waka Kotahi is exercising its regulatory powers under clause 2.10 of the Land Transport Rule: Setting of Speed Limits (2017). This allows the Waka Kotahi, as a regulator, to set safe and permanent speed limits for local roads. 

Land Transport Rule: Setting of Speed Limits (2017)(external link)

This means permanent, safe and appropriate speed limits can be set for State Highway 1.

How do speed reviews work?

More information about speed and the speed review process is available on the Speed Review Programme webpage.

Speed Review Programme webpage(external link)

What is the consultation period?

The consultation period ran from Tuesday 26 October 2021 through to 5pm Tuesday 23 November 2021.

We will now consider all submissions and make a final decision soon.

Will heavy vehicles be able to go 100km/h or 90km/h on a road with 110km/h speed limit?

The current 90km/h speed limit for heavy vehicles and towing vehicles will also apply on 110km/h roads. The roads proposed to change to 110km/h have at least two lanes in each direction, so other road users should be able to safely and easily pass slower-moving vehicles.

90km/h speed limit for heavy vehicles is set under the Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004. 90km/h was deemed the appropriate speed limit for heavy vehicles when considering both safety and efficiency. Remembering some heavy vehicles can weigh up to 60 ton.

What is the difference between an expressway and a motorway and a local road?

State highways are those roads in NZ that form a nationally strategic purpose in moving people and goods nationwide. State highways are an asset Waka Kotahi manages on behalf of Central Government.

Motorways are access-controlled, high-speed roads that normally have grade separated intersections (i.e. have overbridges or underpasses). Motorways normally exclude pedestrians, cyclists and all animals. There is usually no stopping permitted on a motorway.

Expressways are also high-speed roads, but they may include grade separated, as well as appropriately spaced ‘at-grade intersections’, which means they often have accesses and driveways on to them and sometimes traffic signals or roundabouts. Some expressways also allow cyclists.

Local roads are those roads that form a regionally strategic purpose in moving people and goods within regions. These are managed by local government (councils).

Will other road users (for example people cycling) be able to use the 110km/h roads?

If the new limit is on a motorway, non-motorised road users (for example, people walking or cycling) are currently prohibited from using the road. If the new limit is on an expressway, the shoulders will provide for cyclists unless signs specifically exclude them.

How will the speed limit on the 110km/h roads be enforced by Police?

Police will apply the same enforcement considerations to 110km/h roads as any other part of the road network. This includes deploying to locations where the road safety risk is greatest. Officers will continue to use discretion in applying enforcement interventions according to the circumstances, with a focus on ensuring people drive in a safe manner and at a safe speed.

Police would like to remind drivers to drive to the conditions, free from impairment and distraction, and make sure everyone in the vehicle is properly restrained. By doing this, you will dramatically reduce the chances of causing harm to yourself and others on the road

Do vehicles that travel at faster speeds increase fuel consumption and therefore create more emissions? 

Calculating vehicle emissions is complicated as there are multiple factors that need to be considered, in addition to speed. 

There are over 4 million vehicles on Aotearoa roads, with over half of these classified as light passenger vehicles.  Fuel consumption for light passenger vehicles will vary depending on the speed travelled as well as factors such as vehicle size, shape (related to air resistance), fuel type, age and how a person drives (e.g. sudden braking or accelerating). During congested conditions fuel efficiency is typically reduced resulting in higher vehicle emissions.

At Waka Kotahi, we use the Vehicle Emissions Prediction Model (VEPM) to estimate fleet average emissions from vehicles in the fleet, based on their average speed and typical road, traffic and operating conditions, such as weather.

VEPM predicts that the lowest emissions for the light vehicle fleet in Aotearoa occur at average speeds between 70-75km/h.  Speeds outside of this range, both lower and higher, are estimated to create higher emissions on average but other factors must be taken into consideration when thinking about these speeds such as people’s safety, roading infrastructure, traffic volumes and operating conditions.