Transport bosses have set aside more than $50 million to buy land for the Tamahere-Cambridge section of the Waikato expressway, as opposition parties step up their criticism of the multi billion-dollar roading project.
The Transport Agency has released its purchasing budget ahead of an announcement today awarding the contract to build the $250m Tamahere-Cambridge section to HEB Construction.
Work on the section is due to start in September and will feature 16 kilometres of four-lane median-divided highway, the Waikato Times reported.
The section will begin south of the existing Tamahere interchange and end about 2.5km south of Cambridge township where it will connect with the existing State Highway 1.
Once complete, the section is expected to reduce travel time through Cambridge by about four minutes; at peak times the time saving is expected to be up to 10 minutes.
NZTA’s Waikato-Bay of Plenty regional director Harry Wilson said the agency had spent $28.9m buying properties along the designated route of the Tamahere-Cambridge section.
The agency has a total purchasing budget of $50.3m and, to date, had made both full and partial property purchases.
“There is a further $21.4m available to complete property purchases on the section. Any surplus property becomes part of Crown land and will be dealt with as appropriate under the Public Works Act 1981. These surplus properties are forecast at $15.3m.”
Mr Wilson refused a Waikato Times request for details on how much the agency paid for each property, saying it would “soon be available” from Quotable Value.
Meanwhile, opposition parties have repeated calls for a rethink over the entire expressway, saying the economic and transport benefits of the $2.4 billion project were questionable.
The Government has named the expressway project, to be finished by 2019, as one of seven Roads of National Significance.
Once complete, the 102km expressway will stretch from the Bombay Hills to south of Cambridge – about 6km shorter than the current SH1.
But Labour’s transport spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway said a Labour-led government would want an in-depth analysis of the Waikato expressway before committing to the project in its current form.
Green Party MP and transport spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter said the Waikato expressway was not the best use of billions of dollars and the Government’s own analysis showed it would have very little economic or transport benefit relative to its large cost.
“We would reprioritise that money on smarter projects that would move more people and goods. The Auckland-Hamilton-Tauranga triangle could benefit from substantial upgrades to rail, for freight and passengers.”
Meanwhile, former Labour MP and city councillor Martin Gallagher has joined those wanting assurances from Labour that a change of government will not jeopardise the expressway.