Auckland's second Waitemata Harbour crossing as part of a $10 billion transport mega-plan will be a tunnel, Prime Minister John Key has confirmed.
Mr Key has just made the announcement at an Auckland Chamber of Commerce event at Sky City today, where he also confirmed the government's support for Auckland's city rail link.
The prime minister announced the city rail link earlier this week after it leaked to the media.
He also today announced plans to accelerate a trio of state highway work among crucial infrastructure projects for Auckland.
The tunnel is estimated to cost $4.6 billion and will not be built until 2025-2030.
New Zealand Transport Authority is to confirm the preferred alignment and anticipated route by December.
Although a tunnel would cost about $800 million more to construct than a bridge, there would not be as many difficulties in the resource consent process, Mr Key told media.
A second crossing has long been discussed as an alternative to the heavily congested Auckland Harbour Bridge, which was opened in 1959.
The full media statement is below:
PM signals next generation of Auckland transport projects
Prime Minister John Key today outlined the Government’s plan to kick-start the next generation of major Auckland transport projects, including the City Rail Link, and to accelerate a trio of State Highway projects.
Speaking at an Auckland Chamber of Commerce event today, Mr Key said the Government is backing Auckland to succeed by advancing crucial transport infrastructure projects.
“There is a next generation of major projects that is going to be required to develop and improve transport in Auckland for the benefit of the city and the country,” says Mr Key.
These are the combined Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI) and East-West Link, the second Waitemata Harbour crossing, and the City Rail Link.
“These three projects are all identified as the highest transport priorities in the Council’s Auckland Plan,” says Mr Key. “They have a price tag of around $10 billion and they are projects that need to be planned for over a long period of time.”
On the City Rail Link, Mr Key says that as he indicated earlier this week, the Government is committing to a joint business plan for the City Rail Link with Auckland Council in 2017 and providing its share of funding for a construction start in 2020.
“We will consider an earlier start date if it becomes clear that Auckland’s CBD employment and rail patronage growth hit thresholds faster than current rates of growth suggest.
“I realise 2020 is not what the Council leadership is wanting, but while we may differ on timeframes, there is clear recognition by the Government that the project will be needed to address access to the Auckland CBD and improve the efficiency of rail,” says Mr Key.
On the second Waitemata Harbour Crossing, Mr Key says the New Zealand Transport Agency is moving to confirm the preferred alignment and protect the anticipated route by December this year.
“The Government agrees with the Auckland Council that the next crossing should be a tunnel,” says Mr Key. “A new harbour crossing is likely to be needed between 2025 and 2030.”
Mr Key says the Government wants to speed up the combined Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI) and East-West Link project, and Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee would be getting advice on which elements can be accelerated and how funding can best be targeted.
“The area between Onehunga, Mt Wellington and East Tamaki is home to a number of industrial and logistics businesses that make a critical contribution to the Auckland and national economy.
“Many people are employed in the area and there’s considerable growth potential, but the transport links in and out are not up to the job,” says Mr Key.
Mr Key also signalled the Government intends to accelerate three other projects on the State Highway network in the Auckland region to address congestion, capitalise on the benefits of the Western Ring Route and improve access to the airport.
These projects are to complete a motorway-to-motorway link between the Upper Harbour Highway and the Northern Motorway at Constellation Drive, widen the Southern Motorway between Manukau and Papakura, and upgrade State Highway 20A link to the airport to motorway standard.
Under current funding assumptions, a start to construction on these projects may be up to 10 years away, but Mr Key says the Government is not prepared to wait that long.
“The NZ Transport Agency has been asked for advice on how to bring forward the construction start dates for these projects. The Government will be providing additional funding to enable this to happen,” says Mr Key.
“The Government’s direction on transport in Auckland is clear – we want to accelerate vitally-needed projects and get on with the job.”