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Local Taranaki MPs Barbara Kuriger and Jonathan Young welcome the green light announcement today for a two-bridge bypass on State Highway 3 of Awakino Tunnel.

“I am delighted that the two-bridge bypass of Awakino Tunnel has been selected for development, taking into consideration public opinion and balancing this with the safest options available,” said Barbara Kuriger.

“At the public consultation meetings I went to in New Plymouth and Te Kuiti in December last year, this was the favoured design by residents, community members, and business officials who travel this road daily,” said Kuriger.

“The portion of road between the Waikato and Taranaki regions is a key freight link but the affected section of State Highway 3 has become increasingly unsafe, and prone to unpredictable, periodic closures,” said Jonathan Young

“The two-bridge bypass will bring an improvement to this section of SH3 to ensure an enhanced level of safety for this portion of the infamous journey, which continues to be a critical issue for SH3,” said Young.

In the coming months design and consenting work will commence ahead of construction.

“This will open up the entire West Coast as a link to the rest of the Upper North Island, which will undoubtedly increase tourism, economic productivity, and the flow of goods and services,” said Young.

“This is necessary more than ever now, with Taranaki’s recent identification by the Lonely Planet as the second best place in the world to visit, where we are already seeing an increase in visitors and tourists,” said Young.

A full package of safety and resilience improvements along the 58km stretch of highway will include road widening, intersection improvements, passing opportunities, road realignments and slope stability. This includes changes to the Mt Messenger section of the journey.

“Further work is needed before the bypass project for Mt Messenger can be confirmed, owing to environmental and cultural concerns raised during consultation, particularly around the native kōkako in the Parininihi conservation area,” said Kuriger.

The Transport Agency is now reviewing the concerns raised and will work with community leaders to develop an option for the Mt Messenger bypass. The final solution will balance the desired safety, resilience and journey experience benefits with acceptable environmental and cultural effects.

It is expected that an announcement on the preferred option for Mt Messenger will be made in August this year.

“I drive SH3 weekly, and I know how dangerous it can be. Most weeks we see news reports of another vehicle incident on roads throughout the area. I am confident that investment into upgrading the safety across SH3 will significantly reduce deaths and serious injury,” said Kuriger.

“I thank the Minister for his continued commitment to rural roads across New Zealand, and acknowledge the Ministry of Transport’s follow through on delivering safer roads for our communities,” said Kuriger.

“I commend the NZTA and SH3 working party for their collaboration and moving quickly on this. The improvements to the stretch of road between Awakino Gorge and Mt Messenger have been a long time coming, and it is good to see progress being made in an advanced manner,” said Young.

The project is part of the Government’s Accelerated Regional Roading Programme which is designed to speed up delivery of important regional transport projects.

Notes to Editors

An Alliance team including NZ Transport Agency, Downer, HEB Construction, Tonkin & Taylor, Opus International Ltd, Holmes Consulting and Isthmus, has been appointed. The Mt Messenger Alliance will work collaboratively with key stakeholders to help take the project forward to determine the preferred option and obtain consents, design and build the route.

The NZ Transport Agency carried out a public consultation from November 2016 to early January 2017 on options for the three projects making up the Awakino Gorge to Mt Messenger Programme. The three projects are:

Mt Messenger bypass: 2018 to 2020

Awakino Tunnel bypass: 2018 to 2020

Safety and resilience improvements: 2017 to 2019

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