Public consultation on tolling Penlink, which began last week and runs until February 13, is a one-off opportunity for the public to demand that the route be toll-free – and one Auckland Councillor is suggesting that the Hibiscus Coast community grab that opportunity with both hands.
Since 2006 the road, from Whangaparāoa Peninsula to SH1 at Redvale, has been promoted as a tolled route, because tolling was to fund construction – whether Auckland Council, or a private consortium built the road.
“That was then, and this is now,” says Cr John Watson, pointing out that much has changed since the former Rodney District Council asked the public to support a toll, back in 2006.
In 2020, Government announced that it would fully fund Penlink as part of its NZ transport upgrade programme.
With that funding for planning and construction ($830m) now in place, Waka Kotahi/NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) is considering whether tolling could still go ahead, and the money be used to pay for the maintenance and operation of Penlink. Currently maintenance of State Highways is funded from the National Land Transport Fund, which NZTA says is under pressure.
A further benefit of tolling, NZTA says, is its ability to reduce potential congestion on the two-lane Penlink – by encouraging motorists to use the free alternative route.
However, Cr Watson says Hibiscus Coast residents are already paying enough through the Regional Fuel Tax.
“Initially, a significant portion of that tax was earmarked for Penlink, but now it’s fully funded it should proceed on the same toll-free basis that most other NZTA projects do,” Cr Watson says.
He says the main ‘driver’ for Penlink is to enable the large-scale growth occurring in areas such as Milldale.
“Penlink will divert Whangaparāoa commuter traffic, reducing congestion around the northern motorway as it approaches the Silverdale turnoff. As such, while Whangaparāoa commuters benefit, they should not be the only ones paying for improvements that accrue elsewhere on the network.”
Council is currently investigating the possibility of introducing a congestion charge for the city centre. Cr Watson says if such a charge is introduced, it will be in around 4-5 years’ time – around the time that Penlink is projected to be completed.
“If these two charges come in at the same time, you would be hitting Hibiscus Coast residents who use Penlink to commute to the city very hard,” Cr Watson says. “So if the congestion charge is introduced, there should be no tolling of Penlink.”
Hibiscus & Bays Local Board member and long time Penlink Now campaigner, Janet Fitzgerald agrees that tolling would be unfair if a congestion charge is introduced. However, she says Penlink Now supports a toll but has issues with NZTA’s proposals, including differing charges for on and off peak.
She says the organisation recently sought the community’s views via its Facebook page and feedback so far indicates that most are happy to pay a toll, but believe the charge is too high and that the road should be four lanes instead of two to facilitate public transport.
“If they are going to pay, they want a road that’s fit for purpose, and a reasonable charge” she says.
Both Fitzgerald and Cr Watson are encouraging Hibiscus Coast residents to have their say regarding the proposed tolling.
The final decision on whether or not to toll the road will be made by Cabinet, following a recommendation from the Minister of Transport.
Proposed tolling – key points
• By 2038, NZTA says a tolled Penlink would reduce travel times by 22-26 minutes during morning and afternoon peak hours compared to the travel times on an untolled Penlink. • Proposed charge is $4 (each way) for light vehicles on the full 7km route,during peak hours – 6am to 9am and 4pm to 7pm, Monday to Friday. • Lower prices are proposed for travelling along only part of Penlink and for off peak. No charge for walking and cycling. • Heavy vehicles will be charged approximately double – $8 each way for full route • Three proposed toll points would be located at the SH1 interchange connecting to Penlink, west of Stillwater township and west of the interchange at Whangaparāoa.
Online information sessions January 27, 12pm-1pm and February 2, 1pm-2pm RSVP essential, email firstname.lastname@example.org
*Under the Red traffic light system, the library sessions are no longer being held and all remaining consultation will be online only.