The Southern Link project proposal. Photo: Supplied.

Southern Link rumbles on

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The Nelson public will likely have to wait at least another 18 months to hear the outcome of a study into the Southern Link project.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford announced the $295 billion transport package last week which was to help projects across the Top of the South Island, including progressing the “Southern Link project” to a detailed business case.

The business case will look at the Rocks Rd and Waimea Rd corridors and access across all transport options to get people and freight, safely and efficiently, in and out of Nelson.

Nelson City Council regional transport committee chair Mike Rutledge says the news is positive, even if it can feel like it is repeating old ground.

“This is the process but we are dealing with a large sum of money so it needs to be well considered.”

The Southern Link is the catchall term to describe a new arterial route that could go between the Annesbrook Drive and Haven Road roundabouts. This new study will look at that route and its risk, feasibility and costings. But will likely also at other options that were suggested in a previous NZTA study.

That study said, before adding another road, the city needed to make intersection improvements, add peak hour clear ways on parts of Waimea Rd, Tahunanui Dr and Annesbrook Dr and make improvements to public transport as well as improving accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists.

NZTA said these should be completed by 2020. However, the previous study acknowledged that as Nelson continues to grow and the demands on its transport system increase, a longer-term solution will also be required.

It recommended that a new route should be constructed in the early 2030s, and that this route should be protected while further investigations are undertaken.

Mike says this new detailed business case was likely to take about 18 months.

However, fellow Nelson city councillor Matt Lawrey isn’t sure why the business case is needed at all.

“We already know that NZTA is recommending we make long overdue improvements to our existing network before we build any more new roads. The really tragic bit is that prior to this investigation that started back in 2015, we had two other major studies come to the same conclusion.”

Local MP Nick Smith says  the Southern Link is “the only practical long-term solution to Nelson’s increasing transport problems to the port and city”.

“I worry that we are spending so much on investigation that we risk paralysis by analysis.”

Nick says he is also concerned that the cuts by the government to investment in new state highways from $1500 million to $400 million a year.

The business case will also look to better link the land transport network with Port Nelson, ensure there are safe and accessible walking and cycling facilities, and review public transport improvements to maximise the efficiency of the existing network.

Nick says he is a “big fan” of a dedicated walkway and cycleway around Rocks Road “but the only way it is viable is to relocate the State Highway with the Southern Link project”.

Labour’s 2017 Nelson candidate Rachel Boyack also welcomes the investment to the region and says that she “supports the investigation continuing through the detailed business case as the process allows the public and community to contribute their ideas and solutions for easing congestion in Nelson city”.

“We need a resilient Rocks Rd that can service the port and productive land in Tasman. I am particularly pleased to see support for public transport initiatives in Nelson and Tasman, as a more cost-effective way of easing congestion at peak times.”

When Greens MP and Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter last visited Nelson she said: “One thing I can tell you about the Southern Link is that it doesn’t deliver on any of the new Government’s objectives for transport.”