Road rage over toll for highway 30 years in the making

May 10, 2023

Road rage over toll for highway 30 years in the making

People involved with the O Mahurangi Penlink project at the sod-turning ceremony in December 2022. Image: Supplied.

Confirmation of a toll for the highly anticipated O Mahurangi Penlink has deterred some locals from wanting to use the road, calling the added cost “unfair.”

A maintenance toll on the controversial proposed road connecting the Whangaparāroa Peninsula to SH1 means it will cost $3 per direction for a car to use.

The two-lane road is expected to save peninsula commuters around 20 minutes from the existing route and alleviate traffic along Whangaparāroa Road and the Silverdale interchange.

Chair of PenLink Now Janet Fitzgerald says she supports the toll as it gives people choices.

“We want the traffic to be split. If it was free to go on Penlink everybody would use it. And from day one it would be just as bad congestion as we’ve got down at Silverdale at the moment.”

However, Hibiscus and Bays Local Board Chairman Gary Brown says this justification is an “oxymoron” and that the rate is too expensive.

“It’s so disappointing for us as a local board and for residents in the areas because we’re trying to eliminate the congestion not add to it by deferring people to go around it. It’s just ridiculous.”

Whangaparāoa resident Martina Dobbyn says the toll would deter her from using the road and believes locals shouldn’t have to pay it.

“$3 is ok for non-locals. My experience with tolls is that they increase bit by bit. Whereas if there is no toll, there is no chance of this happening,” Dobbyn says.

Brown says the inconsistency around tolling roads, especially North Auckland, is “totally unfair.”

“I don’t think the tunnels that take you to the airport are tolled of course and that’s kind of major, but Johnsonville tunnels up our way towards Puhoi are. So why is that? I don’t know why the developments they’ve done going the southern side aren’t tolled and yet they are going north?”

Despite this, Fitzgerald says it was always promoted as a toll road and growth projections for the area have been considered.

People’s perspectives will change when they realise the time and money it will be saving them, she says.

“People will at first no doubt be reluctant to pay but it will be interesting to see if at some stage they put their hand in their pocket and they pay.”

The road is expected to be opened in 2026.

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