30 Jan 2009

Major roading project sent back to drawing board

10:03 pm on 30 January 2009

Transport Minister Steven Joyce is sending an expensive roading project in Auckland back to the drawing board, after a massive cost increase.

The Waterview Connection would extend State Highway 20 from Mt Roskill to Waterview, to complete the western ring route linking Manukau, Auckland, Waitakere and North Shore cities.

Mr Joyce says the cost of building twin tunnels in the current proposal has risen from about $1.9 billion to nearly $2.8 billion.

He says it is significantly more than originally estimated and officials have been asked to investigate alternatives.

Mr Joyce says the current plan for four lanes also leaves no room to expand as traffic grows and a six lane tunnel would cost more than $3 billion.

He says though the Government is committed to the project, it wants to see it done in a cost-effective and future-proofed way.

The Labour Party says delaying the project will only push costs up. However, the Green Party says the move to find alternative options is sensible, as it is not the right time to be spending billions of dollars on new roads.

Support for review

Regional Council Chairman Mike Lee says the Government's review is prudent, given the huge cost blowout, for what is a relatively short section of road.

Mr Lee is concerned that Waterview does not turn into a fiscal black hole, that makes other pressing transport projects unaffordable in years to come.

Auckland City Mayor John Banks says the Government's audit is clearly important considering the global financial crisis - but the link is crucial for the region and must go ahead, as he believes this is the time to get good prices.

Mr Banks says he is happy to look at all options, but as taxpayers and ratepayers will be footing the bill, it is important to make sure that the project is affordable.