MAYOR: Let's put pedal to the metal on second bridge

Published: 28 March 2024

There’s a lot going on in the transport space around the district right now, and Council is involved with many of the projects in some way, shape or form.

The Fairfield rail freight hub at Fairton will officially open on 19 April and that will change traffic flow in Ashburton for the better.

The hub is a project involving local transport operator Wareings (private), KiwiRail (corporate), Government and us, and it will increase the amount of freight being moved by rail to ports for export.

For decades, the shunting yard in the middle of town has held up traffic as wagons are connected or disconnected, but soon all that will be done at Fairton. People walking across the railway lines in town will need to have their wits about them though as trains will be passing through Ashburton at a much faster speed.

A project that I am glad to see at its end is NZ Transport Agency’s SH1 Tinwald corridor improvements. The new traffic lights were switched on earlier this week and there’ll be a period of monitoring as motorists, cyclists and pedestrians get used to the new layout.

The lights will create opportunities for traffic on the side streets to get safely onto the state highway, but the only thing that will really ease congestion on that stretch of road is a second bridge.

We’re making sure this new bridge is firmly on Government’s radar and Council has made a  submission to the Draft Government Policy Statement on Land Transport this week. It sets out why a second bridge over the Ashburton River is vital economic infrastructure for goods and services heading north and south, not only for community connectivity in Ashburton itself but for the whole of Canterbury and the South Island.

The existing bridge is a vulnerable and has been closed on two separate occasions in the past two and a half years because of high river flows, severe flooding and debris build-up. A second bridge at Chalmers Avenue will significantly enhance the state highway network and we expect it will be fully funded by Government – we and the Canterbury Mayoral Forum, and the regional transport committee, are calling for the bridge to be defined as a road of national significance, rather than a road of regional significance.

We also strongly support the proposal to increase revenue in the National Land Transport Fund by more than 30 per cent over the next three years. We have one of the largest roading networks in the country and road funding remains under pressure due to historical underfunding and now the rising costs of road works.

Within the district, our roading contractors are making good progress on repairs, rehabs and resealing while the weather remains warmish. Thompsons Track and Maronan Road, arterial roads that carry a lot of traffic, both have work coming to an end in the next month and the result will be wider and stronger roads.

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