The expressway opening
By Roger Childs
The forecast was not that great for Express Day on Saturday 18 February, but as it happened, there was no rain or wind.
NZTA expected about 15,000 to take advantage of walking, running or cycling the new expressway, but in the end over 21,000 Kapiti people turned out.
Probably many of these were people who originally opposed the Road of National Significance running through the middle of Kapiti.
There were fears of the expressway dividing the district; people losing their Kapiti Island views; native trees being destroyed; birds being displaced; and increased pollution and noise.
Also many thought that the earlier Western Link Road proposal would have been better.
Solving plenty of problems
However, the expressway was completed several months ahead of schedule and the very necessary separation of through traffic from town traffic has been achieved.
Obviously for people and freight heading in and out of Wellington, the real benefits in terms of saving time and fuel, will come when Transmission Gully opens in mid 2020.
No Kapiti views were lost and the new highway has not split the district. Most local roads “crossing” it, have been significantly upgraded and go under it.
There are many other positives:
- Local traffic is moving more efficiently as a result the much reduced use of the old State Highway One, especially from Raumati and Paraparaumu to Waikanae.
- There has probably been a decline in carbon emissions as traffic moves more freely within and through the area.
- The expressway is benefiting the use of the airport and the rapidly developing Landings commercial area.
- The set of new tracks developed along the entire length of the expressway has been a huge boon for walkers, runners and cyclists of all ages.
- Over a million and a half trees, shrubs and flaxes have been planted.
- There is six times as many wetlands as existed before, and the bird life is flourishing in and around these zones.
- In emergencies the new road is an efficient alternative to the old State Highway.
- There is now a much needed second bridge over the Waikanae River.
Still some issues
The big one is noise, especially at night.
Sound walls and bunds, have been built in some areas, but not others.
The area probably most affected by after dark traffic, is the elevated section from the Wharemauku Stream to Raumati Road. There are more than 200 houses within 200 metres of the expressway in this area.
There are noise issues in Waikanae and Raumati South as well.
The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) has been slow in meeting resident concerns. It took many months for Engine Break signs to go up and for rumble strips to be removed.
NZTA has met with residents and their research is on-going. However, many locals are concerned about the lack of action on reducing noise.
However, the opening of the expressway was unquestionably the big event of the year for the Kapiti District. And one major bonus for locals within easy access of the highway, is the time saved in moving within the district.