By Gavin Evans
July 25 (BusinessDesk) - A near-$100 million investment in new roading at Auckland International Airport is critical to improving public transport options for travellers and workers, the company says.
Work has begun on the two-year Northern Network project, which will see the main route to and from the airport – George Bolt Memorial Drive – widened from four lanes to six, including dedicated lanes for high-occupancy vehicles.
The project also adds a new road – Altitude Drive – which will connect with George Bolt Memorial Drive north of the existing retail centre and run east to join Nixon Road. The third main element, a new one-way loop road, will take traffic to the international terminal and back onto George Bolt via Manu Tapu Drive.
Andre Lovatt, the airport’s general manager for development and delivery, says the expansion of George Bolt Memorial Drive is a big part of the project but all three elements will be advanced at the same time.
While the company is aiming to complete all the works by mid-2021, earlier completion of the loop road would bring a lot of benefit.
“That’s a piece of the project that we want finalised as soon as practicable,” Lovatt told BusinessDesk.
Auckland airport is the country’s largest and handled almost 21.1 million passengers and 179,085 flights in the year through May – both up about 2.5 percent on the year before.
It is planning for passenger numbers to more than double by 2044 and today’s roading announcement is the second of eight major projects the airport plans during the next two decades to deliver that growth.
Last month, construction began on new taxiways and fuelling stands at the western end of the airport alongside the international terminal.
“There’s going to be more of this to come in a very short period of time,” Lovatt told BusinessDesk. “We’re moving from a period of planning to a period of doing.”
About 15,000 people work in the airport precincts and at peak travel times, traffic on George Bolt Memorial Drive can reach 95,000 vehicles a day.
Downer has been awarded the contract for the roading project and earthworks are scheduled to start next month. The airport has committed to keeping two sealed lanes available each way on George Bolt Memorial Drive throughout the work.
Lovatt said a key aspect of the project is the addition of mass transit lanes, which will provide capacity for the increased public transport options planned for the airport.
The airport has been working closely with Auckland Transport and the New Zealand Transport Agency to coordinate its planning with the upgrades of State Highway 20 west and east of the airport and the new Puhinui rail interchange, targeted for completion in 2021.
Lovatt said that, in future, an increasing proportion of trips being made to and from the airport won’t involve private cars.