In a milestone decision City Councillors have approved the location for the new upstream bridge and road approaches for Palmerston North.
The site, which links Te Matai Road off State Highway 3 to Ashhurst with Staces Road in Aokautere, is upstream of the city by approximately four kilometres and connects with the proposed Eastern Road Corridor, the Pahiatua Track and State Highway 57.
On Monday, March 3 the Council’s Policy and Planning Committee endorsed the site plan outlined in Opus International Consultants’ scheme assessment report.
The plan makes provision for the road approaches and proposed 200 metre span bridge to be raised to a level where, in the unlikely event of an emergency, they will withstand the impacts of major flooding in the area.
Planning for this has been developed jointly with Horizons Regional Council to maintain the current level of flood protection that can be justified. Horizons requires the bridge to withstand the effects of a flood that could be expected to occur once, on average, in 500 years.
The City Council’s Road Planning Team Leader, David Lane, explains that the area in question is adjacent to the Manawatu River and therefore requires a high level of protection. “In the case of widespread flooding, the road will become a strategic link during any period of emergency,” David says.
The site plan is the result of four years of investigation by both the City Council and Opus International Consultants incorporating extensive community consultation during that period.
The City Council, Horizons Regional Council and neighbouring local authorities consider the bridge is critical because of;
Increasing traffic congestion and projected growth on Fitzherbert Bridge and Fitzherbert Avenue
Projected growth in the Aokautere and Kelvin Grove areas
The need for a second bridge close to the city in case of emergency
Its connection to the eastern part of the rural ring road (eg providing easy access from Manawatu to Wairarapa without driving through the city)
Its eastern bypass capability
Its importance because it is closely integrated with possible residential development and the recreational lake.
David Lane says the approval of the route is a significant milestone in the city’s history and gives the community greater certainty over how Palmerston North could develop.
The estimated cost of the project (bridge, approach roads, land acquisition) will be $64.7 million of which the Council will be seeking financial assistance from Land Transport New Zealand (LTNZ) and also third party contributions towards the total project cost.
“In no way will the bridge be met by Palmerston North ratepayers alone. Its strategic location and importance means that the City Council can apply to access funding from other sources,” David says.
The City Council has budgeted for the project through its Long Term Council Community Plan (LTCCP) and has set aside $100,000 this year for the designation process.
The next step is to confirm the proposed route through a Resource Management Act process of designating the land which will begin shortly. Once the designation is confirmed the Council will consider the most appropriate timetable for construction.
At this stage the likely date for the start is during the 2010/2011 financial year.
At present Council and Opus staff are discussing the implications of the report with affected landowners and key stakeholders such as Manawatu District Council, Horizons Regional Council and LTNZ. These discussions will be ongoing.
“For the people of Palmerston North the bridge will provide them with choice. It will reduce congestion, bypass the inner-city and ensures that the capacity of the existing network is not compromised,” David Lane says.