Prime Minister John Key and Transport Minister Simon Bridges yesterday marked the start of work on the East-West Link roading project.
The first stage of the project, the $15 million Onehunga works, is now underway. Stage one will improve travel times and congestion for both local road users and freight by widening the Southwestern Motorway to four lanes in each direction between Neilson Street and Queenstown Road in Onehunga to provide extra capacity for the growing numbers of vehicles expected to use State Highway 20.
Dedicated bus lanes will also be added to State Highway 20 at Walmsley Road to improve travel times for those heading to and from the airport.
At the same time as the improvements in Onehunga are getting underway, work is also progressing on the broader East-West project which is in the planning and consenting phase.
Consent applications will be lodged with the Environmental Protection Authority before the end of the year.
In January the Government announced its intention to streamline the consent process for the $1.25-$1.85 billion project in order to bring forward its construction.
Once complete, the East West Link will provide a seamless link between the South-Western Motorway (SH20) and the Southern Motorway (SH1). It will also tackle congestion and provide more reliable travel times in and out of the Onehunga-Penrose industrial area, and between the eastern suburbs and the airport.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges said the Onehunga-Penrose area is the engine room of New Zealand's industrial and manufacturing economy.
"Many of our largest distribution and logistics facilities are based in the area, but the heavy congestion is slowing freight movements and restricting economic growth.
"The projected growth rates of Auckland will generate greater demand for cross city east-west traffic. That's why the project is a real priority for Auckland and the Government is committed to completing it as quickly as possible," Bridges said.
Stage 1 of the project is expected to be completed by February next year.