At long last! The government’s $630m Kapiti expressway project has a confirmed completion date. On the 16th of February, it’s time to start your engines.
The government and minister Simon Bridges have shown unrivalled leadership on this crucial piece of infrastructure, with an early completion date ahead of schedule and an extra lane into the capital.
For those in Wellington City the expressway holds great importance too. It’s economically important, being the major roading route for Wellingtonians to get their goods to and from market, with gridlock on the connecting State Highway 1 leading into the city causing headaches for years.
But for locals the long-awaited project has been a long time coming. Ground support has been immense, and locals rewarded MP Nathan Guy with an increased majority over Labour’s Rob McCann who opposed development.
Guy admitted there had naturally been some concern with the project to begin with, but closer to the project’s completion feedback had been “overwhelmingly positive”.
For a long time commuters out of Wellington heading to the Kapiti Coast and beyond have complained of increasingly bad gridlock, particularly about the summer months when holiday makers make the trek north. Many a Wellingtonian has had a bad start to the summer break spent in a scorching car, delaying their journey!
The 18 kilometre completion will boast a total of 18 bridges, and accommodate for cycling and walking with reserved paths for alternative, non-car transportation. In all, the changes will result in “smoother and safer journeys for everyone” according to Mr. Bridges.
New Kapiti Coast Mayor K Gurunathan said his only concern was commuters may enjoy the new expressway so much they would drive straight through the district without stopping to spend money in the local economy, according to The Dominion Post.
The existing State Highway 1 will become a set of local roads to be owned and maintained by Mr. Gurunathan’s council.
However there remains adamant opposition from Green Party councillor Iona Pannett who wrote “Please don’t start your engines unless necessary, climate change is here to stay”. Ms. Pannett is the portfolio leader for infrastructure and sustainability.
But as former mayoral candidate Jo Coughlan previously argued (in response to Ms. Pannett) that the development of new highways would eventually assist in the battle against increased carbon emissions, saying the less time cars spend stuck in gridlock would equal less fumes, and that , eventually, the green cars of the future would need highways to ride on too.
Politically, it’s a big win locally for the government heading into election season.
You can join in the fun on the expressway’s open day on Saturday February 18 from 10am-3pm, when 5km of the completed project will be open to the public for walking and cycling.
– Bennett Morgan, Capital HardTalk.