Let last piece of Waikato Expressway out of lockdown

4 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineMay 20, 2020

After years without progress, now is the time to finally deliver the Cambridge to Piarere section of the Waikato Expressway, says the AA.

AA‘s Waikato District Council has called for the long-needed new stretch of highway to be included on the list of infrastructure projects pushed forward by the government to help stimulate the economy in the wake of the pandemic.

“If we rewind to 2017, construction was planned to be starting on the Cambridge to Piarere expressway this year,” says AA Waikato councillor Trevor Follows.

“There‘s been little progress since then – as the local community knows all too well – but now is the opportunity to turn that around and finally get building. The current stretch of SH1 is simply not up to the task – it can‘t safely and efficiently carry all the traffic that needs to use it.”

There have been five fatal crashes on SH1 between Cambridge and Piarere in the last three and a half years, while there has been just one fatal crash across the six completed sections of the Waikato Expressway since they opened.

“The Cambridge to Piarere expressway is needed now. If we don‘t take action, the current highway is going to become even more inadequate and there will be many more unnecessary serious injuries and deaths,” says Follows.

“When we build quality, modern highways we see fatal crashes all but disappear, while the crash rate between Cambridge and Piarere has actually been increasing in recent years.”

Follows says completion of the Expressway through to Piarere will help ensure that it becomes the preferred route for traffic travelling through the Upper North Island.

“It‘s about getting as much traffic as possible to travel on the safer route. It‘s about realising the full benefit of all the investment that‘s gone into the Expressway so far.”

Earlier this year, the NZ Upgrade programme announced by the government included plans to build a roundabout at the intersection of SH1 and SH29 at Piarere and said it would be future-proofed to connect with an extension of the expressway.

“The upgrade to the intersection of SH1 and SH29 is absolutely needed, and the AA fully supports that work happening as quickly as possible, but let‘s do the whole route rather than just the end of it.

“Everyone knows that we need to carry on the expressway from Cambridge to Piarere and the government will miss a huge opportunity if it isn‘t part of the projects they push forward in the Covid-19 economic response.”

Along with the extension of the expressway, the Waikato AA district also urged the government to deliver:

  • Safety upgrades on the existing SH1 between Piarere and Waiouru

  • Hamilton City Southern Links/Peacocke package

Other AA districts around the country have identified similarly needed local transport projects while at a national level the AA has urged the government to supercharge investment in key areas of road safety and maintenance.