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Government’s decision on tolling Harbour Link

3 August 2005

Transit and Tauranga City Council welcome government’s decision on tolling Harbour Link

Transit New Zealand and Tauranga City Council welcome the Cabinet decision announced today to approve tolling of the Harbour Link project, following extensive community consultation on the proposal. The approval allows the project to progress to construction many years earlier than would otherwise be possible.

“The Harbour Link project is a critical component of the region’s Strategic Roading Network, the timely completion of which is contingent on access to alternative funding sources such as tolling,” said Stuart Crosby, Mayor of Tauranga.

The Strategic Roading Network is a series of interrelated projects forming an efficient ring road linking Tauranga, Mount Maunganui and the Port of Tauranga, and is considered critical to the sub-region’s 50-year SmartGrowth strategy. The Harbour Link project, which includes a duplicate Harbour Bridge and widening of the causeway, will provide a continuous four-lane expressway linking Tauranga with Hewletts Road and Mount Maunganui.

The toll proposal was prepared in partnership by Tauranga City Council and Transit because the project includes both local road and state highway components.

“As well as bringing forward its construction, tolling Harbour Link enables an element of demand management to be introduced, which is essential for the long-term sustainability of the overall network in the region,” said Rick van Barneveld, Transit Chief Executive.

In recognition of community equity issues, including the fact that the existing Harbour crossing was built using tolls to cover part of the construction cost, half of the construction cost for Harbour Link will be financed by the National Land Transport Fund. The balance of funding for the project will be sought through public sector debt finance to be repaid by tolling.

Extensive consultation and a separate survey of the affected community as defined under the Land Transport Management Act 2003 demonstrated strong community support for the proposal to advance Harbour Link by tolling.

The Minister of Transport also announced today the allocation of a $150m Crown Grant to help further accelerate progress on developing other critical transport infrastructure in the greater Bay of Plenty.

“While the Crown Grant allocation is great news for the region, there remains a funding shortfall for strategic transport infrastructure and this is why Harbour Link needs to be partially toll funded,” said Mayor Crosby.

“The combination of traditional sources of funding, toll funding and the Crown Grant will facilitate the completion of this region’s strategic corridors, unlocking the economic and social benefits – both locally and nationally – sooner than would otherwise be possible,” said Mayor Crosby.

Construction of Harbour Link will start between October 2006 and March 2007.

3 August 2005

MEDIA BACKGROUNDER: OIC APPROVING HARBOUR LINK AS A TOLL ROAD

Project description

The Harbour Link project includes: A duplicate Harbour Bridge and widening of the causeway to provide four lanes across the harbour to Totara Street A four-lane flyover to bypass the Chapel Street, Marsh Street and Mirrielees Road commercial and industrial area Four-laning of Hewletts Road from the Harbour Bridge causeway to Jean Batten Drive.

This will connect with the current Hewletts Road Flyover project, which includes the four-laning of Hewletts Road from Maunganui Road to Jean Batten Drive currently under construction.

As required under the Land Transport Management Act 2003 (LTMA), feasible alternative routes have been considered for road users who do not want to utilise the new facility and pay a toll. Non-tolled alternative routes have been identified for trips from Tauranga to Mt Maunganui or Waihi to Mt Maunganui/Te Puke, and from Hamilton to the Port of Tauranga or Mt Maunganui.

Consultation and community support

Developing Harbour Link as a toll road was initially endorsed in the Bay of Plenty Regional Land Transport Strategy adopted in September 2004, provided all other funding sources were exhausted. Consultation on the proposal to toll Harbour Link reinforced this, with 69% of submissions, and 75% of respondents in a separate, independent survey of the affected community as defined in the LTMA, in support of the proposal.

Consultation ran from 17 December 2004 to 18 February 2005. It included:

Distribution of 1270 brochures to the public and key stakeholders and an advisory pamphlet that was delivered to over 65,000 mailing addresses. Information in local and national media, which included a four-page insert about the proposal and a submission form distributed through The Bay of Plenty Times and three community newspapers with a total circulation of 140,000. It was published a second time in the Weekend Sun. Advertisements also featured in national newspapers and on radio.

A project office was open in the Tauranga CBD for the duration of the consultation period, and was visited by approximately 4,500 people. Public information days held in Mt Maunganui and Tauranga, with 292 and 253 people signing the attendance register at the respective events.

Presentations were given to a broad range of stakeholders and interest groups, including business, transport agencies, community groups, Tangata Whenua/Mâori and emergency services. The Strategic Roading Network website (www.srnetwork.co.nz) included information on the project, the consultation process and a submission form that could be printed out.

Breakdown of submissions received
Support 1135 (69%)
Oppose 467 (28%)
No position 37 (2%)
Total 1639 (100%)*
*Note: totals do not add to 100 because of rounding.

The independent survey undertaken involved face-to-face interviews with 875 randomly selected people aged 16 and over who were defined as members of the affected community according to the Act.

Survey results
Strongly support 392 (44.8%)
Somewhat support 274 (31.3%)
Somewhat oppose 99 (11.3%)
Strongly oppose 91 (10.4%)
Undecided 19 (2.2%)
Total 875 (100%)
Travel demand management

As well as enabling construction to be brought forward by at least ten years, the ability to use the toll on Harbour Link as a travel demand management tool is a key factor in Tauranga City Council and Transit’s proposal to construct and operate Harbour Link as a toll road.

As a toll road, Harbour Link will enable sustainable traffic flow by setting the toll at levels that balance the number of motorists that use the toll road with those who use alternative routes according to willingness to pay. This will prompt change in people’s travel behaviours, provide motorists with reliable travel times and increase the overall effectiveness of the network.

Toll tariffs & toll collection

A toll for light vehicles in the range of $1.00 to $2.00 (indexed to the Consumers Price Index) is proposed for Harbour Link. Toll tariffs for heavy commercial vehicles will range up to $4 in 2005 dollars. The actual tolls collected will be set (and varied by time of day and day of the week) for demand management purposes.

A fully electronic toll collection (ETC) system is proposed for Harbour Link, with a toll collection point (both directions) in the vicinity of the Aerodrome Bridge. This system will enable the free flow of traffic, maximising the time savings and safety benefits for motorists using the toll road.

A nationally integrated approach to electronic toll collection is being developed by an interagency partnership through the Toll Systems Project, initiated as part of the proposal for the ALPURT B2 toll road north of Auckland. This would provide road users with seamless toll road experiences wherever they are in the country.

Project costs and financing

The current estimated construction cost for Harbour Link is $220 million to $250 million in March 2005 dollars, which allows for a cost escalation (inflation) adjustment from the October 2004 figures presented in the consultation material. A further cost escalation will be required to accommodate the price movement until the contract is awarded in late 2006 or 2007.

In recognition of community equity issues, half of this cost will be financed by the National Land Transport Fund and the balance of funding for the project will be sought through public sector debt finance to be repaid by tolling.

Based on a worst-case scenario of costs and low traffic volumes, modelling has indicated that the costs of advancing the project start date could be covered by toll revenues over a tolling period of approximately 20 – 25 years. This is well within the proposed 35-year maximum debt repayment period.

ENDS

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