28 Jan 2010

Puhoi to Warkworth highway could be tolled

11:01 am on 28 January 2010

Part of a $1.4 billion upgrade to State Highway 1 between Puhoi and Wellsford, north of Auckland, could become a toll road.

The Government confirmed on Wednesday an upgrade of a 38-kilometre section of road between Puhoi and Wellsford, known for major traffic jams during holiday periods and a high accident rate.

A Transport Agency briefing document says it will consider whether the section between Puhoi and Warkworth should be tolled.

It says if the road were tolled, it could be built faster, however the agency says it needs to do a lot of work, including consulting with the public, before it makes any recommendation.

A decision to toll the road would also need the approval of cabinet.

Road upgrade questioned by Labour

The Labour Party says there are better priorities for transport spending than the $1.4 billion upgrade to the section of State Highway 1.

Labour MP David Shearer, says the upgrade won't necessarily ease congestion.

He wants to know the justification for directing funding to this part of the highway and not into Auckland, where he says there is a real need for transport projects to be started.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce says the stretch of road is among the busiest of rural highways, and one of the most important sections of highway for Northland and Auckland.

He says the upgrade will reduce accidents, ease congestion and bring economic benefits to Northland and Rodney Districts, and to Auckland.

Construction is expected to begin within five years, he says.