Waka Kotahi plans to announce the preferred site for a roundabout at Piarere by the end of this month.
But as the transport agency ploughs ahead, the call for a return to the original plan – to extend the Waikato Expressway all the way to the tip of the South Waikato, is growing in volume.
Waka Kotahi has been investigating long-term improvements in the safety of SH1 between Cambridge (where the expressway ends) and Piarere (at the SH1 and SH29 intersections) since January last year.
Waikato National MP Tim van der Molen will speak at a public meeting in the Taotaoroa Settlers’ Hall Karāpiro on Monday as part of his – and the party’s – push to reinstate the expressway plan.
With him at the 5.30pm gathering will be National’s transport spokesperson Michael Woodhouse.
The Waikato MP’s address will come just over a fortnight after the latest road fatality in the area, which has become a blackspot.
Proponents of extending the expressway say it is vital to start the project as hundreds of trucks travel daily to and from one of the country’s busiest ports, Tauranga and more are coming once the Ruakura Superhub in Hamilton is complete.
The Ruakura development is adjacent to the under-construction Hamilton section of the Waikato Expressway. It will eventually cover almost 500ha and is regarded as a project of national significance.
Waikato and Bay of Plenty road users were frustrated when the expressway proposal they expected would marry up with the Superhub project was put on hold by the Government in 2017.
The Automobile Association and Waikato Chamber of Commerce also want the project started.
The plan is to create a corridor taking the Expressway slightly north of its present route alongside Lake Karāpiro to intersect with State Highway 29.
“An announcement of the decision and next steps, including the preferred site for the roundabout is expected to be made before the end of this month,” regional manager, Infrastructure Delivery, Jo Wilton told the News this week.
The business case for the extension of the expressway from Cambridge to Piarere was recently reviewed by the Waka Kotahi Board.
Ms Wilton said depending on the outcome, the next step for any expressway extension would be to seek designations for route protection and regional resource consents.
“Route protection does not finalise exact details of where any future road would be built but does confirm the approximate route on the wider corridor,” she said.
Waka Kotahi will not “actively acquire” land until there is more certainty around funding of the expressway construction.
The growing pressure on the roading infrastructure continues to be a source of major concern.
“The real problem is congestion. There is a constant stream in both directions,” Piarere resident Donna Allen told the News.
“We drive from the turn off twice a day, daylight and dark, and the main problem is the slow drivers causing impatience, some travelling at 60-70 kph. You can’t speed, there’s just too much traffic, but to be fair that’s no excuse either, there’s nothing really wrong with the road.”
Tim van de Molen said kick starting the expressway project was something the current government needed to do as soon as possible.
The community and road users could not wait “5-7 years minimum to get construction underway,” he said.