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North Shore City Mayor questions Eastern Corridor

North Shore City Mayor questions Eastern Corridor priority

North Shore City Mayor George Wood says the huge cost implications of Auckland's Eastern Corridor roading project mean that a lot more work needs to be done before it can be given any kind of regional go-ahead.

"The immediate focus of our work as Auckland councils should be on spending the $1.6bn extra funding we have already won from the Government for the work programme we have just agreed. Just getting that done will bring huge benefits and some quick gains for all road users so we should be concentrating our energies on doing that. That should be our priority.

"Beyond that we haven't really properly assessed and debated as a region where we should invest further and how we will prioritise longer-term projects," he says. "We will have to review the Regional Land Transport Strategy as agreed with Government and do all that work. The Eastern Corridor will have to factored into that process and the costs will have to be considered against a whole set of other long term project priorities."

Mayor Wood says there are additional costly projects on the horizon such as a third harbour crossing that have to be integrated into the long term planning for the region. "Any planning for an Eastern Corridor would have to link with work around a third harbour crossing," he says. "That's not happening at present and we haven't had the information or the communication we need as a city on this project to look at those linkages.

"We also have to ask the question how are we going to afford it all? And what will bring the most benefit for the least cost? Tolling and congestion charging should be tools for reducing congestion and traffic, not for creating new roads - so I think relying on tolls to pay for enormously expensive projects like the Eastern Corridor is not sustainable."

Mayor Wood also says that he would not support a toll on the Harbour Bridge going to pay for an Eastern Corridor. "A lot more work needs to be done around issues like tolling and network pricing in our region. We haven't even begun the proper investigation into how it might work. And if we ever did toll the bridge, then I'm sure our residents, who will be the ones mostly paying that toll, would expect that money to be invested in projects that would deliver best value for money," he says.

"The aim could be to link tolling revenue back to the re-investment in the alternatives so drivers can see we are using the money to boost bus and ferry services, making it viable for more people to change their travel behaviour and giving everyone more choice. And at the same time easing congestion and take the pressure off our roads for all users.

"We can't introduce any kind of congestion charging or network tolling until we have a much better public transport system - and there's a huge cost to that," says Mayor Wood.

"Let's do things that rapidly improve public transport and can reduce the load on our roads and help the environment right now, and then assess things. I'm not convinced that spending billions on one single motorway project that will take years to implement will give the Auckland region the urgently needed economic, social and environmental improvements and congestion-relief that we are all so much wanting to see."

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