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Improved networks Transfund's focus for Waikato

Safety and improved networks Transfund's focus for Waikato

Road safety and improved transport networks are the focus for Waikato in Transfund's National Land Transport Programme (NLTP) for the coming year.

Transfund New Zealand today announced it has allocated $137.85 million for investment in Waikato's land transport network in the 2004/05 NLTP. This comprises:

* road maintenance for state highways and local roads ($84.90 million)

* state highway and local road construction projects ($49.15 million)

* passenger transport services ($2.68 million)

* promotion of walking and cycling ($0.22 million)

Transfund chair Dr Jan Wright says the money allocated to the region is likely to increase during the year should Waikato's local authorities and Transit New Zealand make applications for funding transport activities meeting Transfund's requirements.

A proportion of Waikato's allocation is committed funding for projects including the four-laning of State Highway 1 between Mercer and Longswamp, safety improvements on SH1 from Longswamp to north of Rangiriri and ongoing passenger transport services.

Other projects which may be funded during the year include the Mill Street deviation in Hamilton, replacement of Allens Bridge west of Huntly, construction of Mangatawhiri deviation on State Highway 2 to realign a section of highway to improve safety, construction of Avalon Drive bypass on SH1 in Hamilton to reduce congestion, design funding for the Kopu Bridge on State Highway 25 and design of the Cambridge bypass on SH1 to reduce congestion in the Cambridge township, Dr Wright says.

Other smaller state highway projects that may begin during the year include improvements to the Hillcrest Road and Morrinsville Road intersections on SH1, realignment of SH31 at Owaikura Road, and 21 passing lanes on state highways 1, 2, 3 and 25A.

Dr Wright says passenger transport funding increased by nearly 40 percent with $2.7 million being allocated to Waikato for 2004/05. This funding includes Transfund's ongoing commitment to bus and passenger rail services and support for the total mobility scheme.

The increased frequency bus services in Hamilton introduced during 2003/04 is showing a 15 percent increase in patronage. Environment Waikato is planning to introduce a real-time passenger information system during 2004/05 as well as investigate the opportunity to introduce services in other parts of the region. A trial bus service is also planned to begin in Taupo.

Under the travel demand management, rail and barging (alternatives to roading) activity class, Transfund has received indicative bids for barging services from Kopu, near Thames, to Auckland to transport quarry aggregate and one along the west coast of Coromandel Peninsula for transporting logs and possibly marine produce.

And under the promotion of walking and cycling activity class, Transfund has received funding requests for the development of cycling and walking strategies for the Hauraki District Council, Matamata Piako District Council and Thames Coromandel District, and construction of cycleways in Hamilton, Taupo and Waipa.

Also being released with the NLTP is Transfund's 10 year financial forecast, Dr Wright says. This forecast shows a significant increase in funding for the transport sector over the next 10 years, and includes the extra funding announced by the government last December which will be available from April 2005.

She says this funding will be distributed to regions on a population basis but has not yet been allocated through the NLTP as policy has not yet been finalised.

"This extra funding, which is a huge increase for transport in New Zealand, will accrue to each region.

Authorities will need to plan in advance so they can take advantage of this window of opportunity," Dr Wright says.

"This will require the sector to step up to a new level of activity. There are already signs this is happening with funding commitments for 2004/05 and beyond totalling more than $1 billion, a significant increase on the level a year ago."

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