One Warkworth Business Association fears that time is rapidly running out to ensure the proposed Matakana link road is built on time and of sufficient capacity to prevent Warkworth degenerating into traffic gridlock.
It says despite a reduced budget, it should be possible to not only build a four-lane road, but have enough cash left over to redesign the notoriously complicated Hill Street intersection and build an additional Sandspit link road.
One Warkworth’s frustration boiled over last week following delays by Auckland Transport (AT) in responding to a One Warkworth presentation on the issue to the AT Board on May 9. During the presentation, One Warkworth representatives argued that it was essential the link road opened before the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway, due for completion in October 2021.
One Warkworth says if the 1.4km Matakana link road fails to open in time, then traffic congestion at the Hill Street intersection will be an even bigger nightmare than it is already. Traffic coming from Sandspit and Matakana, and heading to Auckland, will turn right instead of left at Hill Street, a turn which is more than twice as difficult.
Meanwhile, cars negotiating the turn will block traffic from Matakana and Sandspit roads attempting to head left into Warkworth. One Warkworth says to meet the 2021 deadline, a contract for the necessary roadworks must be concluded by July so that earthworks can start in October this year.
However, AT still does not own the land required for the Matakana link road, may have its consent applications to build the road appealed and has still to resolve the nature of the road to be built.
One Warkworth has consistently pressed for a four-lane road, but in November last year, AT advised that traffic projections and budget cuts may mean a two-lane road was constructed instead. One Warkworth disputes the projections saying a four-lane road is needed from the outset to cater for Warkworth’s growth.
One Warkworth further argues that even though the budget for the road has been cut from $88 million to $63 million, it is still possible to build a four-lane road that would cost less than half the $63 million.
One Warkworth chair Chris Murphy says two contractors spoken to by One Warkworth say a four-lane Matakana link road could be constructed for about $15 million. Mr Murphy declined to name the contractors at the risk of jeopardising their interests in any tender process. However, he says even if contractor estimates ballooned to $20 million and land acquisition costs were higher than expected at $10 million, the total cost of the project would still only reach about $30 million.
One Warkworth put it to AT that any under-spend of the $63 million on a four-lane Matakana link road should be used to rebuild the Hill Street intersection and construct the Sandspit link road. One Warkworth reiterated to AT that the full potential of the Matakana link road will not be realised until the Sandspit link road is also completed.
Mr Murphy says One Warkworth was led to believe during recent discussions with AT that despite earlier hesitation, AT would commit to build as much of a four-lane road as the budget would allow. But early last month, AT advised One Warkworth that the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) may yet require AT to build two lanes only.
So far, AT has delayed responding to One Warkworth’s concerns pending the decision of commissioners at an Auckland Council hearing into land designation and resource consents for the Matakana link road. The outcome of the hearing is expected by June 14.
But Mr Murphy says there is no reason for AT to wait. An application to vary the resource consent to build a four-lane road from the outset would be relatively straightforward.
AT spokesperson Mark Hannan said the concerns raised by One Warkworth have also been raised by the Rodney Local Board. He said AT was currently preparing a response but this could not be shared until it had been put to the Board.