In order to meet its future transport needs and to grow economically, the Wellington region requires a 21st century road that runs from the airport to Levin. In Wellington city, the flyover planned for the Basin Reserve is part of that solution. Further north, the Kapiti expressway is an equally crucial element.We've driven down to Wellington three times in recent weeks. On each occasion, the traffic has moved freely as far down as Levin, but has bottle-necked once State Highway 1 is joined by SH57 at the Kimberley Road intersection. It is this portion of the road that the Kapiti Expressway will ultimately address.
It makes no sense for the New Zealand Transport Agency to spend hundreds of millions of dollars clearing traffic bottlenecks at both ends of the route while leaving them in the middle. If the region is to meet its potential, the full length of the transport spine through which goods are freighted and commuters travel must be as smooth and efficient as possible.
That is why the MacKays Crossing to Peka Peka section of the Kapiti expressway is an essential project. Once it is completed, thousands of vehicle movements a day that are at present channelled into Paraparaumu and Waikanae will be diverted to the west, allowing them to continue unhindered to their final destinations while freeing up roads in the two bustling towns.
As the board of inquiry set up to consider the project has found, the present alignment of State Highway 1 is inadequate, unsafe for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists alike, not easily accessible and congested. The road can be closed by a single accident, drive times at rush hour and holiday periods are woefully slow and it is not sufficient for the volumes of traffic that use it.
The route should be a key part of the infrastructure that underpins the economy of the Wellington region. Instead, as at present configured, it is holding it back.
The reality is that the problems with the link between Wellington city and points north cannot be properly addressed without constructing an expressway that has two lanes of traffic travelling in each direction. It would be neither practical, nor desirable, to build such a road on the existing route.
As with any major roading project, there is a downside for some. The MacKays to Peka Peka section of the expressway requires the demolition of 28 homes and will run through part of a sacred Maori site. That is unfortunate for those affected, and it is impossible not to feel sympathy for the situation they have found themselves in through no fault of their own.
However, doing nothing to improve this important route is simply not an option. No matter which solution is decided upon, someone, somewhere, will be unhappy. The answer is not to scrap the project, but to ensure that those affected by it are fairly and properly compensated for their losses.
The NZTA has been sensitive to the need to minimise the human, cultural and environmental costs of the road. The board of inquiry has also imposed nearly 100 conditions on the agency to further mitigate the impact, both during construction and after.
It has also rejected claims that the NZTA failed to properly consider alternatives to the proposed route. Most importantly, it has found that the project will be highly effective, generating local, regional and national economic benefits.
The Transmission Gully highway will finally be built soon, after years of prevarication and procrastination by successive governments from both sides of the political divide. SH1 from McKay's Crossing to the beginning of the Wellington motorway has long outlived its capacity. It is to the credit of the current Government that Transmission Gully will finally happen.
But there's no point in building Transmission Gully if the road further up the Kapiti Coast is not also improved. The slow grind through Paraparaumu, Waikanae and later the outlet shopping mecca of Otaki Railway is a cause of frustration to motorists and locals alike, especially in peak traffic. The construction of the Kapiti Expressway will improve the lot of the majority of residents of those towns.
As the Dom-Post's leader writer note, doing nothing is no longer an option. As we noted earlier, successive governments have ignored Wellington's plight whilst investing heavily in Auckland's motorway network and the Waikato Expressway. Wellington's location and geography makes its need more urgent than Auckland's, given that there are multiple ways out of the Queen City.
So we agree wholeheartedly with the tone of this editorial. The time has come do, as the Nike people would say Just Do It.