Howick MPs call for arterial road takeover

Columns
Monday, May 9, 2016

Howick’s local MPs are pushing Transport Minister Simon Bridges to designate the locally owned South Eastern Arterial as a state highway.

If successful, the busy arterial road that is the main route to and from Howick, Pakuranga and Botany, would come under the control of the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA).

It would mean the arterial’s management and future development would be taken from council control and become the responsibility of the taxpayer-funded government agency.

Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross and Pakuranga MP Maurice Williamson believe it is in the best interests of the local community and have met with Mr Bridges to press the matter.

“We’re lobbying to have the South Eastern Arterial designated as a state highway,” says Mr Ross.

“It’s at motorway standard, everyone thinks it’s a motorway, and it carries 45,000 vehicle trips a day. That’s strong justification for it to be classed as a state highway; as a motorway.

“More importantly though, we cannot stand by and keep watching the Council leave East Auckland infrastructure in the slow lane.

“The South Eastern Arterial is a critical link between our community and State Highway One, as well as the airport and business precincts like Onehunga.

“We have left the Minister with no doubt as to the importance of roading progress for our electorates. By elevating the status of this road to align with its true use, more integrated planning, led by NZTA, can take place properly.”

However, Mr Ross and Mr Williamson are not stopping at a change of ownership of the road. The pair are also advocates of a wider plan to integrate South Eastern Arterial into the work underway planning for the East-West Link.

“The East-West Link is designed to connect from the west and State Highway 20 through Onehunga, Penrose and Mt Wellington to the Southern Motorway”, says Mr Ross.

“But it needs to have a direct connection to the east to truly be an East-West connection. That’s why Maurice and I think it’s important for NZTA to work on linking the new project directly through to Howick via the South Eastern Arterial.”

The idea supported by the two MPs would see the East-West Link project create an additional connection from the Onehunga foreshore, through Hamblins Hill, direct to South Eastern Arterial and on to Pakuranga.

Mr Ross and Mr Williamson say the proposed improvement to East-West Link would help to relieve the SEART/SH1 interchange of traffic travelling between Howick and destinations west of the southern motorway.

“Much of the traffic congestion Howick locals experience is a direct result of the interchange between the Southern Motorway and South Eastern Arterial.

“The East-West Link project is a good opportunity to consider how traffic congestion can be alleviated at this pinch point.

Mr Bridges visited Auckland’s south-east recently, taking in a tour with Mr Ross, Mr Williamson and Papakura MP Judith Collins, to be briefed on transport problems and potential solutions.

“It was an ideal opportunity for us to show him what our major issues are and to suggest ideas for how we can unlock the gridlock,” says Mr Williamson.

Mr Ross and Mr Williamson are going a step further than seeking state highway designation for South Eastern Arterial, calling for the scheduled Reeves Road Flyover – part of the Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI) – to also be considered in their bid for state highway status and NZTA management.

“The Government is currently streamlining the consent process for the East-West Link to bring forward its construction,” says Mr Williamson.

“It makes sense that the East-West Link includes the South Eastern Arterial through to the proposed Reeves Road flyover in Pakuranga.”

The Reeves Road Flyover was controversially deferred by a decade by Auckland Transport last year, only to be later revived after local protest.

The pair say Reeves Road should be looked at in conjunction with South Eastern Arterial given the significance of the Arterial to the success of the Flyover, and the direct connection between the two.

Mr Williamson says the enormous volume of traffic on local roads and the spectacular growth every year means the planned roading projects are vital and long overdue.

“Projects such as the Reeves Road flyover must go ahead as soon as possible,” says Mr Williamson.

“Delaying road projects in favour of enhancing public transport will not see proper outcomes for constituents in the Pakuranga and Botany electorates.

“We have been ignored for too long and it’s now urgent that Howick, Pakuranga and Botany get priority.

“A direct connection between AMETI, along a government controlled state highway, through to the East-West Link, will provide roading improvements well into the future.”