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Eastern Transport Corridor project

Eastern Transport Corridor project – moving into fast lane

Consultation on specific options due to start next month

The Mayors of Auckland and Manukau cities, Hon John Banks and Sir Barry Curtis, are convinced that the Eastern Transport Corridor can be built within 10 years but to ensure the project achieves the required standards, particularly environmental, a significant new financial source will need to be found.

Both leaders are delighted but not surprised that the first phase of formal community consultation conducted by Opus International has confirmed that the corridor is necessary.

The corridor is necessary for four critical reasons for Auckland’s growth and development:

To enable network completion as set out in the region’s land transport strategy; To relieve congestion on the southern motorway from the CBD south, which is now starting to reach intolerable levels even outside peak hours; To get the increasing numbers of trucks servicing commercial centres between the Port/CBD and east Tamaki and Botany off local roads; and To enhance regional public transport services to the eastern suburbs of Auckland and Manukau cities.

The Mayors said the next phase of consultation, commencing in September, will involve seeking feedback to specific options on the location of the corridor route and its make-up in terms of road, rail and cycleway as well as options for private vehicles, freight, buses and other commercial traffic.

They expect specific options to be firmed up by respective councils in consultation with other stakeholder groups next month. Some of the options will depart from those contained in the original 2002 Eastdor study.

Sir Barry: “It is important that all practical corridor options be considered. At the same time we want the consultation process to be undertaken in a timely and professional way to ensure that people affected by the corridor can benefit from it as soon as possible.”

The project timeline has been constructed to achieve a final recommendation on a preferred route by the end of next February.

The initial Opus International work-in-progress indicates the total cost of an eastern corridor could be between $1.9 billion and $2.9 billion.

All options would include significant environmental mitigation. The $2.9 billion version includes tunnel and cut and cover options in the Hobson Bay area, and a link to the Harbour Bridge and west Auckland via State Highway 16 in Grafton Gully, together with connections to State Highway 1 at both Mt Wellington and off Te Irirangi Drive in Manukau City.

Mr Banks: “While the cost is significant, the consultants have confirmed the project continues to be economically viable and a net-benefit in terms of reducing congestion, improving access and mobility around the region, and assisting safety.”

The Mayors are also confident the project will provide a significant boost to public transport in the region’s eastern suburbs, and will consider the latest international thinking in terms of supporting cycling and local walking options.

Also noting the possible $2 billion cost for completing the western corridor, the Mayors said it was increasingly urgent the Government pass the Land Transport Management Bill and give Auckland the tool box to raise the additional funds it needs to keep its transport network completion programme rolling without further interruption.

Mr Banks: “To complete the entire network in a timely way, we need access to two billion of new dollars now. Businesses and home owners borrow to get themselves started and that is exactly what Auckland’s transport infrastructure providers need to be able to do as of now – not sometime next year or through the traditional drip-feeding process.”

Sir Barry: “Auckland’s transport congestion has reached crisis level, which is slowly strangling the region’s economy and growth potential, and causing endless frustration to people even when taking short trips across the region.”

Mr Banks: “It is time to stop pussyfooting on the issue and put in place a strategy and work programme to build the infrastructure everyone agrees is required. Lets do it once, do it right, and get the job done by 2010. That’s our vision – lets make it our goal.”

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