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National Party leader Todd Muller announced the plan in Ashburton today, saying it aims to drive the region's economy forward and create hundreds of jobs by delivering a new 60km four-lane expressway.
The project would see the existing four-lane expressway extended from the Christchurch Southern Motorway through to Ashburton and will include new bridges over the Selwyn, Rakaia, and Ashburton rivers.
"The Canterbury region is New Zealand’s largest by land area and second largest by population. Strong, resilient and reliable transport networks are needed to continue supporting growth in the region," he said.
“This is a significant investment in the local economy. The project will create important economic stimulus and jobs in the short term while also allowing Canterbury to maximise its future economic potential.
“State Highway 1 is the major economic corridor for the movement of freight and commercial activity in the South Island. If we want our economy to create jobs, having an efficient transport network is essential.
“This road will be an investment that benefits the South Island economy for decades to come.”
The Christchurch to Ashburton Expressway would feature:
- A continuous four-lane state highway (two lanes each way)
- A median barrier separating traffic travelling in opposite directions
- New bridges over the Rakaia, Selwyn and Ashburton rivers
- Wide lanes and sealed shoulders
- Mainly grade-separated intersections
- Safe roadsides clear of obstacles
- High standard landscaping and environmental controls
- High quality signage
Development work would begin in National’s first term with construction likely to start after 2023. The cost of the project is estimated to be $1.5 billion.
The new 60km expressway would link the northern end of Ashburton to the Christchurch Southern Motorway extension currently under construction at Rolleston, as well as the Western Corridor to the south west of the city.
“Labour’s $5 billion cut to the state highway budget has seen no progress made on this project for three years, while traffic and safety problems on the existing road have got worse,” Muller says.
SH1 between Christchurch and Ashburton is one of the most dangerous stretches of highway in New Zealand, with 24 deaths and 119 serious injuries since 2010.
Muller says traffic on this road has increased by about 2000 vehicles per day since 2014 on the back of a strong primary sector and growth around the inland port at Rolleston, as well as a successful port centrally located in Timaru.
“National’s Roads of National Significance are the safest roads in the country,” Muller said.
“After three years of no progress we need to get on with this expressway to ease congestion, save lives, create jobs and stimulate our economy.”
Today’s announcement follows National’s commitment in June to build the Belfast to Pegasus expressway, including the Woodend Bypass, extending the Christchurch Northern Corridor.
“Motorists have been shafted by the clumsy and incompetent Labour-led Government, which has spent three years hiking fuel taxes and delivering no quality transport infrastructure in return,” Muller says.
“Only National has the track record of delivery and the competent team to get quality infrastructure built and get New Zealand moving again.”