“Considerable” delays could see the Transmission Gully motorway only just make a 2020 opening.
Construction began on the 27 kilometre-long road in 2015, with April 2020 initially touted as the month traffic would finally flow onto four-lanes connecting Linden in north Wellington to Paekakariki on the Kapiti Coast.
Earlier this year, the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) agreed to one-month extension of the $850 million project’s planned completion date – to May 2020 – but didn’t rule out more delays.
Now the extent of the delays have been revealed. In a Porirua City Council (PCC) meeting on Thursday, council staff said they were told NZTA was now thinking about opening the motorway in November.
The project was “considerably behind” schedule and there would be delays on a link at local road Kenepuru Dr.
The council’s infrastructure general manager, Mike Evans, later confirmed that during “ongoing communication with NZTA, they have mentioned that Transmission Gully may now open in November 2020”.
“PCC would like Transmission Gully to be completed as soon as possible so residents living along the current [State Highway 1], as well as commuters using this corridor, can enjoy a reduction in traffic volumes.”
Asked if the November date was correct, NZTA transport services general manager Brett Gliddon said they “previously acknowledged that the originally planned opening date of April 2020 will not be achieved”. “However, we anticipate it will be open later in 2020.”
“Transmission Gully is a highly complex project, being constructed on 27 kilometres of very difficult terrain,” he said.
“Progress has been slower than anticipated due to numerous weather and seismic events, including the need for resources to be diverted for the response to the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake.”
NZTA refused to confirm an exact opening date.
Once completed, the motorway will link with the Kāpiti expressway, which in turn joins the Peka Peka to Ōtaki expressway. In March, Stuff revealed the $330m expressway was also delayed and would not meet its planned completion date of 2020.
Porirua Mayor Anita Baker said she was not surprised to hear Transmission Gully had been delayed again, but was shocked to hear the Kenepuru connection could take another six months. “It’s just really disappointing and frustrating.”
At the northern end of the Transmission Gully route, Kāpiti Coast mayor K Gurunathan said even if there was a delay till November, then technically it was still inside the 2020 delivery year.
“We will be disappointed if it goes into 2021.”
Investment decisions were being made on the opening of Transmission Gully, and “any delays of that, will delay that growth spurt coming earlier”, he said.
He took a “philosophical” approach to the opening date, which comes after decades of waiting for the route to be built. “What’s a few months?”
Automobile Association spokesman Dylan Thomsen said there had been rumours for a while that the project was running behind.
“It wouldn’t be a surprise if the completion date is now towards the end of 2020 … if it is going to be towards the end then I think it would be better to get that out in the open now.”
He said it would be better to just let people know. “Of course if it is going to be delayed then there’s going to be a bunch of disappointment over that … but the most important thing for us is the road is built, and built well.”
The four-lane Transmission Gully motorway will connect Linden in north Wellington to Paekākāriki on the Kāpiti Coast.
Wellington Gateway Partnership won the contract to design and build the motorway and maintain it for 25 years.