Close, so tantalisingly close.
As we inch towards the Christmas break, the team building the Peka Peka to Ōtaki expressway is working flat out to get it open. Whether they will by Christmas is a matter of much debate and a good deal of conjecture in Ōtaki. Everyone has the inside gossip – from reliable sources, of course.
The reality is that at the time of writing, the expressway isn’t open, though the view from bridges and the old highway make it look as if it could open tomorrow. Barriers are up, lanes are painted and the blacktop “emogpa” surface is slick and shiny in the summer sun.
It looks even more shiny in the summer rain, and that’s been one of the problems for the construction team and its official communicators. Rain might well be the factor that influences the call to “forget about it” until next year.
While wet weather doesn’t stop work, it can sure hold things up, and when a roadway is so close to being able to carry traffic, it can draw a fine line between pushing the green button or the red.
Another factor is the lingering effects of Covid. Yes, the worst of Covid thankfully seems to be in the past, but workers are still coming down with the illness, so they still need to stay away from work, even if they’re feeling OK. In the current nationwide situation of staff shortages, replacement workers can’t be simply plucked out of thin air to fill the gaps on a project that often requires specialist skills.
It’s clear the transport organisation Waka Kotahi and constructor Fletchers want this road open as soon as possible. The traffic gridlock around Ōtaki, especially during the mad holiday season, will be on their minds.
But as we’ve seen with Transmission Gully, it takes time to ensure all is done to provide a safe and reliable road for the travelling public. The worst possible scenario is a major crash that could have been avoided with more time.
Plus the team is mindful of the public backlash that would inevitably happen if the road is opened and is not “fit for purpose”. The talkback hosts would have a field day with callers insisting they “knew” it would be a shambles, and their wife’s niece’s husband’s father was a contractor on the project and he thought so, too!
It’s understandable that locals will want the expressway to open, and there’s still a fair chance it will. However, this project has been going on for a while already, and as they say, good things come to those who wait.
With Christmas looming, it’s possible at least part of the Peka Peka to Ōtaki expressway will open for the busy holiday period. As at press time (December 12), Waka Kotahi said an announcement was imminent, but that the timeframe was still tight and the transport agency couldn’t confirm whether there would be a full opening, a partial... Keep Reading
Retailers are “cautiously optimistic” about the expressway opening and there’s big potential for the Railway shopping area to redefine itself as a vibrant destination for visitors – and as a retail, service and hospitality hub for locals. These are some of the key findings from a just-released report by First Retail Group. The report... Keep Reading
Ian Carson is editor of Ōtaki Today.
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