The Government has rejected Waka Kotahi’s proposal to toll the new extension of Auckland’s Northern Motorway after facing strong opposition from the local community
The $877.5m project is expected to be completed next year and will extend the four-lane Northern Motorway (SH1) 18.5km from the Johnstone’s Hill tunnels to just north of Warkworth. It will connect to the Northern Gateway section of SH1 south of the Johnstones Hills Tunnels, which is already tolled.
Waka Kotahi contracted NX2 in a Public Private Partnership to construct the Pūhoi to Warkworth motorway. While the NX2 private-sector consortium is responsible for financing, designing, building, maintaining and operating the motorway for up to 25 years, the motorway will remain a public asset.
Waka Kotahi says tolling revenue would pay for the construction and maintenance costs.
But Transport Minister Michael Wood says he will not be going ahead with the tolling proposal.
“There was strong community opposition, with 80 per cent of the affected community opposing a toll. I’ve listened and this was a factor that led me to decline the proposal.”
“Another was commuters could be forced to pay two tolls given the Northern Gateway is already tolled between Silverdale and Orewa, and especially since there is also no southbound exit from the road before the Northern Gateway.
“Tolling is a useful tool that can help fund the construction and maintenance of new roads or significant upgrades to existing roads, so it warrants investigating – but it’s important there are adequate alternatives for drivers,” says Wood.
Yet Waka Kotahi Director of Regional Relationships, Steve Mutton states the existing State Highway 1 would be the free alternative route if the new motorway were tolled.
Now that a toll is off the table, other Aucklanders as well as the rest of New Zealand will likely have to foot the bill to fund the motorway.
Besides the economic benefit, toll roads have also shown to reduce congestion, a problem Auckland already struggles with.