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Transmission Gully next stage gets green light

Transmission Gully next stage gets green light, with preferred route to save $275 million

Transport Minister Annette King has announced the completion of preliminary investigations into a preferred route through Transmission Gully, with identified cost savings of about $275 million over previous estimates.

The investigations have shown that the route identified also provides other significant benefits, Ms King said. "Not only can Transmission Gully be built for less money than previously thought, but the preferred route brings wider benefits, including reducing the impact on environmentally sensitive areas and greater resilience to geological hazards, such as earthquakes, and to major storms."

Ms King said phase two of the Transmission Gully investigation can now go ahead with a decision by LTNZ to approve an additional $20 million in funding to prepare the information required to secure the preferred route. This will be funded from the $80 million the Government committed as part of Budget 2006 for the investigation.

"Completion of phase one is a significant step forward for the project and I am very pleased with the quality of the work and the speed with which it has been done. Reaching consensus on the preferred route has required close cooperation between Transit, Land Transport NZ and the Wellington regional and territorial authorities. This cooperation needs to continue to achieve a suitable funding plan and integration with land use."

Ms King said the revised cost estimate is $1.025 billion, a saving in real terms of approximately $275 million over the last estimate, completed in 2004. The 2004 estimate of $985 million inflation adjusted today would be $1.3 billion based on Land Transport New Zealand's escalation figures.

"The Government remains committed to the release of $405 million earmarked for the Western Corridor highway once the region reconfirms its preferred option. This funding is part of the Government's special funding packages for transport in the Wellington region totalling nearly $1 billion," she said.

"I hope that by late 2009 the region will be able to confirm how it will fund projects like Transmission Gully, and come to the Government with its funding plan for this project and other strategic priorities. The region may need to levy a regional fuel tax to fund important regional projects like Transmission Gully, but before that can happen, the Land Transport Management Amendment Bill has to be passed, as it enables a regional fuel tax to be used as a tool."

Transit will begin formal consultation in July once it has talked with landowners. The draft Scheme Assessment Report will be released by the end of July.

"The Government recognises that economic growth and development are linked with the provision of an integrated multi modal system that the preferred route will provide for the Wellington region," said Ms King.


Questions and Answers

How significant is this news?
This is a very important milestone for the Wellington region. It allows the region to work on funding solutions for the Transmission Gully project, especially now that the shortfall is smaller than anticipated. Meanwhile, funding for Phase 2 will allow Transit to maintain momentum on the project, avoid delays and minimise additional costs while the region works towards a funding solution.

What are the significant safety, environmental and cost benefits of the preferred route?
The preferred route takes into account the fault line that runs through the area and provides greater route security. Impacts on the countryside such as the Pauatahanui Inlet and Battle Hill area have also been important considerations in the investigation. By considering options outside the designation it has been possible to find an alignment that does not cross as many sensitive streams and reduces the size of the cuts and fills required. This has two significant benefits --- it is environmentally better and reduces the number of bridges and thus the cost.

Does this mean that Transmission Gully will now definitely be built?
It moves the process one step closer but it must be said that there is still a fair way still to go. The region needs to come up with a funding solution if we are to reach the construction stage.

The original estimated cost in 2004 was $985m – why has it gone up?
The cost has not gone up. Using Land Transport New Zealand's cost escalation formula the 2004 cost translates to $1.3 billion, which is why the $1.025 bn represents a saving on the previous estimate of $275m.

Who will provide the funding shortfall if the regional council cannot assist?
The Government has already allocated $405m and there has always been an understanding that the Wellington region would come up with a solution to bridge any funding gap. The savings identified as a result of the phase one investigations can be passed on to the region.

Will Transmission Gully become a toll road?
There are no plans to make Transmission Gully a toll road, but public/private consortium and management options would be considered by Government.

Why has the preferred route fallen outside the original designation?
Previous studies undertaken were essentially desktop based. The latest field investigations are the first on-site studies to have been undertaken and provide a significant level of detail which was not previously available. The work undertaken has provided optimal cost and project benefits.

What is likely to happen to property and land values?
As with any property acquisitions, there are a number of factors which could have an impact. Transit will be working with all property owners to ensure the best and fairest possible outcomes.

Will any homes have to be demolished?
Full details of the impact on properties potentially affected by preferred route will be made available in the first week of July.

Are there any Maori land issues to resolve?
Transit has been working closely with Maori representatives on all aspects of the project and this will continue into the next phase. No specific issues have been identified to date.

How realistic will the consultation process be if you already have a "preferred route"?
The community consultation process will allow the public to comment on the preferred route and raise any specific issues affecting them. All feedback received from the community, including directly affected land and property owners, will be taken into consideration before any decision is taken on a final recommended route.

What will happen once the community consultation process has ended?
Once the consultation period has closed, all the responses received will be considered and a report will be published. Further discussion will then take place to consider issues which might have been identified in the consultation process.

When is work likely to start on the project, and when will the road open?
This is a huge project and timelines will depend on a number of factors, in particular the regional funding solution.

What will happen to the existing SH1?
No formal decisions about the future status of the existing SH1 have been made as this will rely upon the progress of the Transmission Gully project.

What other projects are happening in Wellington?
The 2005 Wellington Joint Officials Group process identified funding gaps for implementing priority projects and resulted in two packages – a package of $225 million over ten years for public transport, roading, and travel demand management in Wellington, and a $660 million package over ten years for the Western Corridor to enable sufficient public transport and State highway improvements.

Budget 2007 saw $600 million invested into urban rail development in Auckland and Wellington. In Wellington, that investment will provide funding to replace worn out infrastructure, extend double tracking to Waikanae, and for enlarging tunnels on the Johnsonville line


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