Tolls proposed for new motorway

by Paul Campbell

Kaipara travellers heading to Auckland on SH1 could face round trip tolls of $9.60 for light vehicles and $19.20 for heavy vehicles if charges are approved for the new motorway link between Puhoi and Warkworth that is scheduled to open late next year.

It is the first stage of the Ara Tuhono — Puhoi to Wellsford Road of National Significance. 

The New Zealand Transport Agency is seeking feedback on its proposal for tolls of $2.40 and $4.80 respectively for using the new link and is calling for public submissions, which close on Monday, June 15 — a little more than three weeks away.  

The tolls are the same as currently in place for the Northern Gateway. The agency has issued an online statement, which says every new state highway in New Zealand, along with significant upgrades to existing state highways are assessed to see if they meet the criteria to be tolled.

It says the new link will provide people travelling through the region with a separated motorway and ‘vastly improve the safety, connectivity and resilience of the network between Northland and Auckland, helping to boost the economic potential of the Northland region.’

The motorway will extend the Northern Motorway from the Johnstones Hill tunnels to just north of Warkworth.

Time savings are expected to be greater for trucks due to reductions in grades and a better road layout, which helps heavy vehicles maintain a higher average speed along the route.

It’s estimated an average of around 20,000 vehicles a day currently travel on SH1 between Puhoi and Warkworth. Within the next 10 years, it is predicted traffic will increase to more than 31,000 vehicles a day, shared between the new motorway and the current SH1.

The agency adds that while the motorway is scheduled to open at the end of 2021, it may be delayed by the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It also points out that if the road is tolled, there will be a free, safe alternative for people travelling northwards, because the current SH1 will remain operational. 

‘People travelling northbound from the Northern Gateway Toll Road will be able to exit at Puhoi if they choose to travel on the free route.

‘However, there is no southbound exit from the new motorway before the Northern Gateway Toll Road. This means southbound travellers would not be able to choose the toll-free option using the current State Highway 1 and scenic Hibiscus Coast Highway (formally State Highway 17) via Orewa if they joined the new motorway before Warkworth at the northern end.

Full details of the tolling proposal and a speed limit change on SH1 and submission details can be found at nzta.govt.nz/about-us/consultations/ara-tuhono-puhoi-to-warkworth-tolling-proposal/.