Wednesday, 20th April, 2016
Who has not heard of Penlink - the 7km of road & bridge linking the Whangaparaoa Peninsula to State Highway 1 at Dairy Flat.
When proposed 20 years ago the peak time traffic queue at the Silverdale intersection linking the highway to Whangaparoa Peninsula was around 500 metres.
Twenty years later, the morning peak now stretches 5 kilometres, and still no action.
Auckland Council had Penlink on a 2013 plan for construction to start in 2018 – but deferred it last year with no public investment planned before 2025, even though the project has a strong business case, peak travel time savings of around 15 minutes can be expected immediately and the land has all but been designated and property purchased for a 4-lane route.
It is my observation that the year’s of Penlink “all talk and no action” is taking its toll on local businesses and residents. They are deeply fatigued. The idea behind Penlink was to service growth on the Peninsula. While there was a growth surge early on and numerous businesses invested many millions of dollars to service an expanding community, the worsening access has meant almost no growth in employment on the Peninsula in recent time.
Peak hour public transport is no good – buses get caught in the congestion, freight and delivery services are problematic. The congestion at the intersection doesn’t just affect the Peninsula, but nearby Silverdale and Orewa.
A population the size of Hamilton is projected to be added to the Silverdale area over the next 30 years. Imagine the mess then if we continue the delays in decision making we have now.
By 2021 traffic congestion will make the Hibiscus Coast Highway and Whangaparoa Rd impossible for business, even more frustrating for residents, dangerous and problematical for all road users. Potential growth and confidence in the area will be torpedoed.
It is for all these reasons that business has been left with little choice; we are organising to push for the project to be completed within five years, probably as a public-private partnership.
The indications are that the New Zealand Transport Agency has no interest in driving the project; it doesn’t have a strong freight component. Auckland Council’s deferral of funding to the next 10-year plan (2025-35) effectively means that to turn the ready-to-go Penlink project into action requires the business community to take the lead. The Chamber of Commerce has set up a working group to do exactly that.