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More than $300 million has been granted for two Auckland motorway extensions, both key ingredients of a western ring route aimed at bypassing traffic logjams in the central city.
State funding agency Transfund today approved both 4km links, at opposite ends of the southwestern motorway, through Mt Roskill and Manukau.
At a total cost of $309 million, they will from 2010 take traffic in a continuous 20km motorway sweep along State Highway 20 from the Southern Motorway at Manukau to a roundabout on the western edge of Mt Roskill.
It will take several more years and another $850 million of grants before a further link can be added, to complete a western bypass capable of taking traffic all the way to the Northwestern Motorway.
First off the block, with contracts likely to be awarded by the end of this year and an expected completion date of about 2008, will be the long-delayed Mt Roskill extension at a cost of $152 million.
Construction of the Manukau extension is expected to begin next year, for $157 million and completion in 2009-10, to provide a seamless link to the Southern Motorway for vehicles now having to wend their way through a series of traffic lights down Wiri Station Rd.
The two links will ease access to the airport and take pressure off Hillsborough Rd, which is the most direct route for many commuters between west and south Auckland, but is often bumper-to-bumper with traffic.
But critics of the Mt Roskill extension fear it will simply dump traffic congestion into other people's neighbourhoods, by fizzling out at a land-locked roundabout, leaving westbound traffic to negotiate their way through suburban New Windsor and New Lynn.
Although the project has support from Auckland City Mayor John Banks and both his mayoral rivals, the Green Party is accusing Transfund of flouting the requirements of its governing legislation for sustainable transport by pushing ahead with the motorway.
"This highway will only encourage more car travel, add to air and noise pollution and divide the community of Mt Roskill," said its Auckland transport spokesman, Keith Locke.
The roundabout will be connected to a proposed extension to Sandringham Rd in Wesley and to Maioro Rd in New Windsor.
Maioro Rd will be widened to four lanes as part of the project and Auckland City Council is also spending $13.4 million widening Tiverton Rd and Wolverton St further west to cope with the extra traffic.
The Roskill extension will be mainly four lanes, but with a crawler lane for heavy traffic up the hill from Queenstown Rd in Onehunga, to an interchange at Dominion Rd.
There will also be an interchange before that at Hillsborough Rd, local road bridge crossings at Hayr Rd and May Rd, and pedestrian and cycle bridges at Keith Hay Park to allow access to local schools.
A pedestrian and cycle bridge will also be built next to the roundabout at the western end of the motorway extension.
The city council intends building a cycle track along the southern edge of the motorway, but faces a difficult task fitting it along the Mt Roskill mountain, without breaching legislation protecting Auckland's volcanic cones.
Transit New Zealand has had to redesign the proposed section of motorway passing the mountain, making it higher than earlier planned, to maintain a natural-looking contour in consultation with the Auckland Volcanic Cones Society.
The less controversial Manukau extension will pass through relatively flat territory, although Transit has some concerns about poor foundation soils.
It will link up with a $14 million interchange completed last year at Puhinui Rd, a main route to the airport, and will travel under or over five local roads.
It will bridge the main trunk railway line, and will eventually be shadowed by a new branch rail link running parallel with it between Wiri and the Manukau City centre.
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