Today the government and NZTA confirmed that one of the “roads of national significance”, the Tauranga Eastern Motorway, will be tolled to advance its construction. I don’t really know too much about this particular project, other than one of its major benefits will supposedly be “to stimulate development east of Tauranga”, which seems to mean “to enable urban sprawl”. In any case, here’s the media release:

Construction of the Tauranga Eastern Link road of national significance will start up to 10 years earlier than previously possible following the Government’s approval for the route to be tolled, the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) confirmed today.

NZTA Bay of Plenty Regional Director Harry Wilson says this decision clears the way for the NZTA to get the main construction underway in early 2011.

“Having confirmation that we’ll be able to start early is excellent news. The Tauranga Eastern Link will make an important contribution to the Bay of Plenty’s economic and social well-being and the earlier we can get the road built, the better,” says Mr Wilson.

The four-lane road will run from Te Maunga (near Baypark Stadium) in Tauranga to the existing junction of State Highways 2 and 33 (the Rotorua and Whakatane highways) near Paengaroa. It will be made up 17km of new road and an upgrade of six kilometres of existing highway.

As well as improving the efficiency of freight vehicles accessing the Port of Tauranga and beyond, the Tauranga Eastern Link will improve safety for residents along the current route of State Highway 2 and open up access to new developments planned for Papamoa, Mr Wilson says.

With an estimated cost of $455M*, it will be the largest state highway project ever built in the Bay of Plenty. The NZTA is currently evaluating tenders from two major consortia and expects to announce the successful tenderer in October this year.

“We’re excited about what completing this project will mean for the Bay of Plenty and are grateful for the support of our local government partners – Tauranga City Council, Western Bay of Plenty District Council and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.”

Mr Wilson says tolls will apply to the section of new road from the Domain Road intersection to Paengaroa. A free-flow tolling system will be used to enable motorists to travel the 23km journey without having to stop or slow down to pay a toll.

“We know there will be a lot of interest in the project as it gets underway and we’ll be working hard to keep people informed of progress. This will include a dedicated website and an on-site visitor centre which is due to be opened next year,” says Mr Wilson.

The fact that this can be a toll road is because the existing State Highway 2 will provide the necessary free alternative that the current legislation requires.

Thinking about this, it makes me wonder whether the reason NZTA are going for a completely “off-line” solution for the Puhoi-Wellsford “holiday highway” is so they can toll it. However, the ability to toll a road certainly does not mean that it will be more cost-effective. I’m pretty certain that the dodgy business case for the holiday highway was predicated on the road being untolled, and all the predicted traffic between Puhoi and Wellsford being likely to use the road. If a toll was applied, and that put off a reasonable chunk of potential users of the road (and I can’t quite imagine the toll staying at a mere $2), then the time-savings benefits the project will supposedly create will plummet due to far fewer people using the route.

Of course the Puhoi-Wellsford road may not be tolled (although unless there’s an exit at Puhoi the whole Orewa-Warkworth section will be within the existing tolled area), but it would be interesting to know what the plans are.

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  1. This road is about 2/3rds the length of the Puhoi to Wellsford road but only 1/4 – 1/3 of the price, I imagine this is mainly due to much easier terrain to build in.

    The tolling question is the interesting one for me, how did they set the $2 for the existing Orewa to Puhoi section, how does this compare with the $2 set for the Tauranga link. I suspect it is just a token amount that they know most people will be prepared to pay rather than an amount that actually relates to any specific benefits which concerns me. I suspect that the Puhoi to Wellsford section will see tolls but they won’t be reflective of the cost to build it.

    On the positive side, I remember seeing a story a long time ago that said the more toll roads we have, the lower the collection costs per vehicle would be as the infrastructure developed for Orewa to Puhoi can be reused and provide a better return on investment.

  2. Unfortunately this is one big motorway for trucks. For all the talk of improving access to Tauranga Port, rail carries about 40% of all freight going to and from the port goes by rail. Spending 10% of the cost of this road on rail could enable another large chunk of the remaining 60% to go by rail. Also this motorway actually terminates 5km from the Mount Maunganui port meaning all the trucks will still have to travel along a very congested route.

    Of course a big reason this section of road is very congested is a large mall and big-box stores that have been built on either side of the route. Thus in a few years another few hundred million will need to be spent to upgrade the remaining section.

    1. You’re right Luke, it’s another sop to the trucking industry and also to land developers wanting to sprawl Tauranga out to the east even more.

      I wonder whether it has a dodgy business case too. Time savings of 24 minutes seems outrageously overblown.

  3. The 24 minutes is the return trip saving. As stated above, the final few kms to the Port will still be congested. With the downturn in the economy, and development this highway is designed to cater for, is to be coming on stream later than predicted. The tolling componant arquement was to enable the project to be brought forward 5-10 years. If there was ANY integrity to the tolling process (and there was little) NZTA could easily delay construction and remove the tolling with no major negative impact. The most significant roading issue is the Bayfair roundabout which stupidly was not part of the original proposed tolled highway.

    The $2 toll is for 35 years, and a 1/5 of the construction cost, likely $1.20 to collect. Really makes good economic sence – yeh right! Welcome to Tauranga, the only city which has all roads in and out TOLLED!

    1. As for the collection costs, they are not that high, I think I read somewhere recently that it was down to about 80c per trip with the target being about 60c. Most of the costs are fixed i.e. buildings and computers and developing the software to manage the tolling process so by adding another toll road into the system you get a better utilisation of resources so overall collection costs per trip drop for both roads.

  4. Tolling the Puhoi motorway is exactly why they want to keep it off-line from the existing SH1. To toll it there has to be a reasonable highway standard alternative for all users, and SH16 probably wouldn’t be considered a reasonable alternative for people that live, say, in Orewa to get to Wellsford.

    I don’t support the idea of a Puhoi exit, as it will just lead to more sprawl in the Puhoi area but putting in a full interchange at Puhoi would actually make sense for tolling. With no exit there the long and expensive stretch of new motorway from Johnstones Hill to Warkworth will need to be tolled at the same point as the existing Alpurt 2. The only way to even make this worthwhile would then be to substantially raise the toll prices to account for oodles of expensive new motorway that the toll would be expected to cover. This won’t go down well politically.

    Having an interchange at Puhoi means that you can sectorise the tolls – i.e. toll the existing toll road via the existing collection gantry, have a separate collection point and toll for the section between Puhoi to Warkworth, and so on between Warkworth and Wellsford. Say $2.00 per section (so $6 for from Albany to Wellsford) I reckon would be easier politically than a $6 toll at the existing collection point. This is the way it is done in some places overseas, particularly in Japan.

  5. The other possibility (which I would do if I was Steven Joyce) is to revise the LTMA so that they no longer have to provided a non-tolled alternative to a tolled road. Then they could just spruce up the existing SH1 and toll people to pay for the cost.

    Tauranga always makes me weep when I go there. It is just remarkable that such a small city should be so incredibly congested. It seems worse given what a beautiful natural setting they have with the little volcanoes, harbour, isthmus etc (does that remind you of anywhere else?). Have also noticed that although HAmilton has had a massive increase in bus patronage lately Tauranga seems to be lagging far behind.

  6. Was just reading the article in the Herald and there was mention of how much of a “white elephant” the existing toll road, Route K, was. Safety concerns on the existing road aside, seems like a Motorway from the city out towards areas where nearly nobody lives are going to be a similar proposition.

  7. I lived in Mount Maunganui but left at the end of last year. I made a submission regarding the Tauranga Eastern Highway. I believe the supposed safety improvements along State Highway 2 are overstated. This road will dump even more heavy trucks into Maunganui Road where in the last year when I was there, one pedestrian was killed by a logging truck while crossing the road to get to school and a cyclist was killed at the Bayfair roundabout, also by a large truck. I suppose the so called safety improvements only count if you are driving a car! The Bayfair roundabout is already very busy and will eventually need an overpass to be built which isn’t included in the project. My submission asked for improved pedestrian and cycling facilities along the length of Maunganui Road. As Admin states, this road encourages even more sprawl, all the way along from Papamoa to Paengaroa where a new business park will be built. This will encourage even more traffic and fuel use. I visited the information stand and made the point about sprawl and increased fuel use and basically the person on the stand said to me that since we have had plenty of fossil fuels to power cars and trucks over the past 50 years there is no reason that that won’t happen for the next 50 years. At that stage I gave up!

  8. “I wonder whether it has a dodgy business case too. Time savings of 24 minutes seems outrageously overblown.”
    I’m not so sure as it is a fair bit shorter than the existing route and bypasses Te Puke, where cars have to slow to 50kph. Regarding sprwal Tauranga is a fast growing city and as people like living near the coast continuing development eastwards along the coast makes some sense. There are projections by 2051 Papamoa will have 50 000 people and be the size of Nelson!

    I’ve always believed the Puhoi-Wellsford road if built should be tolled. Having a $2 toll for the Warkworth bypass, and having a single $2 toll for the entire Orewa-Warkworth section makes some sense. We can hope stage 2 isnt built or is an upgrade to existing road. One thing that could be worth investigating is if the road could be built to 120kph standards and have a 120kph speed limit. Many european countries have motorway speed limits of 130kph so it shouldn’t be too hard. And then you might get some real time saving benefits.

    1. If Puhoi-Wellsford was fully funded by tolls then I’d support it too. Problem is that for that to happen the toll would need to be around $50 and nobody would use it.

    2. Though I agree with some of your comments Nicholas, you should stop comparing NZ to a European country. NZ doesn’t have the population size of a European country for starters. The amount of money proposed for state highway construction given the size of the population of NZ is ridicolous. The bottomline is that NZ doesn’t have that kind of money to afford things like this. It’s True Tauranga is a fast growing city, but what the government is trying to do is accelerate the growth(kind of like throwing petrol on a fire) where it should be trying to manage it effectively and containing it near the city of Tauranga. How is Tauranga surposed to develop properly if the growth keeps expanding away from the city centre. Why can’t the council aim at developing the growth much nearer, like building public transport links, building new railway lines around the suburbs. To me the council just wants to create more urban sprawl and repeat the same mistakes that happened with Auckland growth 50 years ago. This is what will happen to Tauranga in 50 years time if growth keeps happening the way it is, it won’t even developed into a proper city, just more sprawl.

  9. Tauranga residents really should come together and oppose this, tell Winston to and then let Bridges know if it goes forward the Nats will have NZ First back to deal with…

  10. This motorway proposal is ridicoulous. Tauranga is already facing urban sprawl issues and never ending coastal development is gobbling up undeveloped areas. Rather than containing the sprawl to make a world class city, the government is intent on building a massive motorway in the middle of nowhere and build a business park and another urban area adjacent to Papamoa which will only increase the amount of trucks on the road in the near future.

    I hate it when I keep reading these articles promoting that this kind of development saying this will be good for the region, shouldn’t we be building this kind of development closer to Tauranga not out in the middle of nowhere with no public transport connections and no infastructure to support this. This development proposal is also listed in the Smart Growth policy. How can this be smart growth, it sounds like urban sprawl to me, that is forcused on a car dependant population.

    The highway will no doubt increase the number of trucks using the highway, especially where the motorway ends, this will put pressure on the road beyond the toll road, and it won’t be long until another highway is built beyond this point. What we should really be doing is trying to remove more of these dangerious trucks off our roads and onto rail which can carry much more frieght.

    I hope there is fierce opposition for this proposal. Why can’t the new business park be built closer to Tauranga, like on the outskirts built near a railway line, etc. National don’t deserve another term after this and Steven Joyce the useless minister that he is should be locked away for this.

  11. More tolls=less users=less sprawl. Did anyone read The Herald article today when talking about the K Road (Tauranga’s current toll road).

    “It has been estimated that four out of five cars and three out of four trucks take the long way around and avoid the toll.”

    And they think this new road will be any different?

  12. You can also only conclude that he is setting out to undermine Kiwirail’s viability…. very strange as he is, effectively, the owner…. oh yeah that’s right public ownership never works, can’t have that succeeding….

  13. “promoting that this kind of development saying this will be good for the region,”

    It WILL be good for the region in a number of ways – with most issues falling on some local communities getting exposed to more cars, but with the area on the whole benefitting.

    Well, until peak fuel, that is. Then it may well be just be another surplus-to-requirements piece of tarmac like so many others.

  14. At the moment the Tauranga K road is only getting 3,200 vehicles a day.. way below the anticipated 10,000 vehicles per day.. This is another way they stack the odds for investing in roads, but exaggerating vehicle nubmers..this road, apparently wont pay for itself until 2044

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