Cambridge bridge, what bridge?

Māori King Tūheitia Potatau Te Wherowhero VII, left, with Transport Minister Michael Wood, right, prepares to cut the ribbon to open the Waikato Expressway Hamilton section with a pair of sharp scissors used at every other opening. Photo: Mary Anne Gill

Transport minister Michael Wood says he has not been briefed about the possibility of a third bridge in Cambridge over the Waikato River.

He was just as coy on the possibility of the Waikato Expressway continuing from Cambridge to Piarere anytime soon when The News spoke to him at the opening of the expressway’s 22km Hamilton section on Tuesday.

Wood said he had not had anything formal about another bridge come through from the region but was sure “someone will be knocking at my door fairly soon”.

Several Cambridge businesses, led by the Chamber of Commerce, have for years been pressuring Waipā District Council to build a third bridge.

Waikato Expressway Opening – Jim Mylchreest calls for Cambridge to Piarere.

In 2018, consultants Beca prepared a report which showed traffic volumes in the town would not trigger the need for a new bridge until 2048.

But last year the council decided to go ahead with preparing a business case to present to Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency.

In the meanwhile, it is likely to be one of the key issues in the Waipā local body election campaign. Nominations for candidates open tomorrow (Friday).

Waikato and Waipā mayors Allan Sanson and Jim Mylchreest used the Hamilton section opening as an opportunity to reinforce their views that extending the expressway to Piarere was a regional priority.

“We’ve heard that from local government. It is something Waka Kotahi continue to work on with local government to build up the business case and look for sources of funding,” said Wood.

“The funding is not available at the moment but as we talked about today, the nature of this project is it has been one we’ve done in stages.”

The project is estimated to cost more than $630 million but no money is available for detailed design and construction before 2027.

In the meanwhile, the government is funding a safety upgrade at the SH1 and SH29 intersection at Piarere and has carried out safety upgrades on the road, including median barriers and associated turnaround facilities.

Wood joined Māori King Tūheitia and 250 guests at the Hamilton section opening. King Tūheitia cut a ribbon using a set of sharp scissors used at every other section opening.

Torrential rain throughout the ceremony made for difficult conditions but Wood said it did not dampen celebrations marking the end of the biggest roading project in Waikato history.

The new Hamilton section runs from Ngāruawāhia to Tamahere and is the final section of the 102km SH1 four-laning between south of Auckland and Cambridge.

Work on the earlier sections of the expressway began in the 1990s in Tamahere and Pokeno and continued with Ōhinewai and Mercer in the 2000s. In 2009 the remaining seven sections were funded for construction with Te Rapa (opened 2012), Ngāruawāhia (2013), Cambridge (2015), Rangiriri (2017), Longswamp (2020), Huntly (2020) and now Hamilton (2022).

See: Waikato Expressway Hamilton section opens

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