National's $2.6 billion plan to fix Auckland's traffic chaos
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National has come up with a whopping $2.6 billion election transport package for Auckland that includes building a new highway alongside the Southern Motorway for $855 million and a Northwestern Busway costing $835m.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges was forced to reveal details of the package last night after parts of it were obtained by the Herald.
The package also provide a further $615m for the Ameti transport project in south-east Auckland, $130m to electrify rail from Papakura to Pukekohe and about $100m for a third track on the busy freight and passenger rail line between Westfield and Wiri.
Bridges said all of the projects, except the Mill Rd highway from Manukau and Drury, would be completed within 10 years.
He said the Government was working closely with Auckland Council to find new ways to deliver the projects in light of a fast-growing population.
Several of the projects have been brought forward from the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) - a joint Government-council transport programme stretching over 30 years.
Bridges acknowledged much of the funding would come from the Government because Auckland Council is right up against its debt ceiling, which, if breached, could lead to a credit rating downgrade and drive up borrowing costs.
The Government and council plan to spend $27b on transport over the next 10 years. It appears the Government will now pay much of a $5b funding gap identified in the 10-year programme.
Bridges said the Government would have more to say on the package in coming weeks.
The package is designed to show voters the Government is serious about fixing the city's snarled traffic, which is costing businesses up to $1.9 billion a year in lost productivity.
Labour leader Jacinda Ardern is unveiling her party's election transport package for Auckland on Sunday, which is believed to include building light rail from the city to airport via Dominion Rd. The party has already committed to building light rail from Wynyard Quarter to Dominion Rd.
Bridges said the Government was considering picking up the Mill Rd expressway from Manukau to Drury as a state highway.
The four-lane Mill Rd highway is primarily designed to cope with growth in the south, but will also provide an alternative to the busy Southern Motorway for motorists escaping the city at weekends. It will have bus lanes and cycleways.
The Mill Rd project connects central Manukau, Flat Bush, Alfriston and Papakura with the Southern Motorway at Drury South along a route where thousands of new homes are planned.
Mill Rd is currently on the books of Auckland Transport where it is on a 30-year timeframe with no funding certainty.
Last month, the Government announced it would spend $97m to connect Mill Rd to the Southern Motorway as part of a new Drury South project for 700 houses and a 180ha business park. The funding was part of a new Government infrastructure scheme to speed up housing projects.
The Northwestern busway, from Westgate to the city, would replicate the hugely successful Northern Busway which carries more than half the people across the Auckland Harbour Bridge on weekdays.
The just-completed upgrade to the Northwestern motorway has limited bus lanes, bringing calls from Labour, the Greens and residents in the rapidly growing north-west for a dedicated, two-lane busway.
A transport election package will be welcomed by National's business allies in Auckland, who want the Government to speed up investment in transport solutions.
A report, commissioned by the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA), Infrastructure New Zealand, Auckland Airport, Ports of Auckland and the National Road Carriers Association, and released on Wednesday, found gridlock is costing Auckland business $1.9b a year - twice as much as previously estimated.
Meanwhile, the National Road Carriers has come up with an immediate and practical step to reduce congestion - banning parking on all of Auckland's main arterial roads.
"We know there are big projects in the pipeline, but we need to make better use of the existing roads right now," said National Road Carriers chief executive David Aitken.
National's transport package
Mill Rd highway $855m
Northwestern busway $835m
Rail to Pukekohe $130m
Third rail line $100m
The winners from speedy work on Mill Rd and Northwestern busway
Residents of new subdivisions in South Auckland
Motorists trying to escape the city at weekends
West Auckland commuters from the likes of Kumeu, Huapai and Whenuapai stuck in motorway traffic