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Transit begins public consultation on tolling

Transit begins public consultation on tolling Auckland’s Western Ring Route

Aucklanders are being asked if they are willing to pay tolls to bring forward completion of the Western Ring Route with the start of public consultation on Transit’s toll concept today.

Transit Chairman, David Stubbs, said that government funding together with tolling could see the route opened as early as 2015.

“Combined with investment in public transport and other key regional roading initiatives, a completed Western Ring Route will get Auckland moving,” said Mr Stubbs.

Opening the Western Ring Route involves completing missing links and adding new lanes to combine the Southwestern (SH20), Northwestern (SH16) and Upper Harbour (SH18) Highways. Much of the route involves building new sections of motorway.

“Early completion of the motorway would have a significant regional and national economic pay-off,” said Mr Stubbs. “Just as importantly, it means less time stuck in traffic for Aucklanders – more time to spend at home, work and play.”

“When completed, the route will bypass central Auckland and be an important alternative to State Highway 1 and the Harbour Bridge.”

“It will mean quicker, more reliable travel times across the Auckland road network and create better connections between south, west and north Auckland.”

Traffic modelling indicates that motorists travelling the full length of the Western Ring Route could cut up to 40 minutes off the 48km trip from Manukau to Albany during the morning peak.

“Tolling enables us to ensure that travel time savings for trips on the Western Ring Route would be maintained over the long-term, by actively managing demand and encouraging people to consider other travel options such as public transport,” said Transit Chief Executive Rick van Barneveld.

Travel conditions on the wider road network would also improve as a result of the extra capacity added by the route, and bus priority, pedestrian and cycle facilities would be brought forward as part of the key projects that make up the Western Ring Route.

Key features of Transit’s toll concept are:

• Tolling across all lanes of sections of the Southwestern Motorway (SH20) and the Upper Harbour Highway (SH18) and linking these two tolled motorways with toll lanes between Waterview and Westgate on the Northwestern Motorway (SH16)
• Toll collection points carefully selected to ensure that free alternative routes would be available and clearly marked
• No toll collection points on either the Manukau Harbour Crossing or Upper Harbour Crossing (because there are no practical free alternative routes to these two key bridges)
• Estimated peak time toll tariff of $7 for the entire trip between Manukau and Albany ($2006)
• Reduced tolls off-peak and at night
• Toll charges will be progressively introduced as new lengths of the route are opened
• An electronic toll collection system, meaning no slowing down and stopping to pay at a booth
• Entire route open by 2015, with the Manukau Harbour Crossing open in time for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Mr van Barneveld said the question for Aucklanders was whether they would be prepared to pay a toll in order to enjoy the benefits of the Western Ring Route much earlier than would otherwise be possible.

“This is a project of regional and national importance. I urge Aucklanders to give it careful consideration and tell us what they think.”

Mr van Barneveld said the consultation programme was the most extensive ever undertaken by Transit, with all households in the Auckland region to receive a detailed briefing document in the mail outlining the toll proposal. Public information centres are also being set up to help people find out more about the proposal and have their say.

Aucklanders have until 5 pm on Monday 4 December to complete a response form, either online or using a freepost form included in the household mailout. There will also be numerous opportunities for people to make presentations, which will be reported to the Transit Board.

Mr van Barneveld said if Aucklanders did not support the use of tolls to bring forward the opening of the Western Ring Route, Transit would programme the remaining works to open the route as soon as possible but with traditional funding there can be no certainty of any opening for at least 25 years.

ENDS

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