Planned Mosgiel road costs soar

The future of heavy traffic routes through Mosgiel, the subject of heated debate for at least a decade, will be reviewed after estimated costs more than doubled.

The cost of upgrading roads in the town has increased from $4 million to more than $10 million.

Consultants advised the Dunedin City Council the estimate for a plan to link Centre St and Carncross St was now $3.2 million, and for an upgrade of Riccarton Rd, $6.9 million.

The projects did not qualify for Land Transport New Zealand funding, but financial assistance of 65% was anticipated - though not certain - from the Government's regional land transport committee's regional funding.

The council's annual plan hearings committee meeting yesterday, which was considering the city's budget for the next year, received a report from transportation planning manager Don Hill, who said he was "astounded" by the difference in the cost compared with estimates so far.

His report said the budget increase required was due to the addition of extra widening to Riccarton Rd between Dukes Rd and State Highway 87, costing $1.2 million, pavement strengthening in Riccarton Rd for increased heavy traffic costing $1.2 million, pavement strengthening in Dukes Rd costing $612,000, and a bridle path on Riccarton and Dukes Rd costing $250,000.

There were also increases to construction costs of the roading projects.

Mr Hill said some aspects of the construction costs had increased by 70%.

Some councillors were angry about having the news dropped in their laps so late in the decision-making process.

The committee voted 7-5 not to approve the increased budget, meaning it will now go back to a full meeting of the council on May 26.

Mr Hill said the council needed to cater for traffic in the area, which was still developing despite the job losses at Fisher and Paykel.

In response to a question from Cr Andrew Noone, Mr Hill said the additional widening of Riccarton Rd was driven by the traffic expected both from wind-farm construction and logging.

It is understood the huge cost increase has raised the question of whether rail links for Wenita Forest Products could be reconsidered.

This year, Wenita is starting the 10-year harvest of its forest north of Mosgiel.

A report last year said trucking the logs would be $5 million cheaper than using rail, and a proposal for tourism operator Taieri Gorge Rail to carry logs to Port Chalmers from Mt Allan was shelved.

Cr Teresa Stevenson asked that if the roading cost was $10 million, was there a chance rail could be reconsidered, "with a decent subsidy"?Mr Hill said that had been put to Wenita, but the company had said it had put too much into the roading option and there was no going back.

After the meeting, he said Wenita had told him it had undertaken substantial roadworks in the area where a rail terminal would have gone, so rail was no longer possible.

As well, rail operator Toll NZ Ltd had been "inflexible", demanding Wenita pay for the tracks 365 days a year, when it would not use them for that time.

Mr Hill told the meeting the council needed to go ahead with notices of requirement to obtain private land on Riccarton Rd.

Cr Fliss Butcher said there were too many unknowns following the new report, including what impact the Government's purchase of the rail system would have.

She moved the report lie on the table until a May 26 meeting so more information could be gathered.

The motion was lost 7-5, and a debate on the original recommendation to approve the budget began.

Mr Chin, Crs Bill Acklin, John Bezett, Michael Guest and Noone voted to approve the budget increase, but the motion was defeated by Crs Butcher, Dave Cull, Chris Staynes, Stevenson, Richard Walls, Kate Wilson and Paul Hudson.

Mr Chin said after the meeting more information would be gathered on the rail issue.

An information evening will be held tonight for residents living in the Centre and Carncross Sts connection project area.

A similar evening will be held in late July or early August for residents living in the Riccarton and Dukes Rds area.

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