A later opening date for New Zealand’s Pūhoi-to-Warkworth motorway has been agreed with contractors in light of construction delays because of COVID-19 restrictions.
The 18.5km route near Auckland was supposed to be open by the end of 2021 but will now handle traffic from mid-May 2022, according to the government.
The opening “is the result of positive negotiations about how to manage the impacts of the COVID-19 shutdown with Fletcher/ACCIONA Joint Venture which has been contracted to build the motorway by the [main] contractor Northern Express Group , called NX2.
“The agreement includes a payment of $85 million [nearly US$57 million] to Fletcher/ACCIONA to cover the cost of the delays and other impacts resulting from the five-week COVID-19 shutdown. This is similar to the payments being made to contractors affected by COVID-19 on projects across the country,” noted the Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency on its website.
The Pūhoi-to-Warkworth motorway will cost around US$565.35 million. The COVID-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown in April meant nearly five weeks of the earthmoving season was lost.
The agency’s agreement to push back the opening of the motorway is part of the agency’s offering of advance payments to road contractors “so the industry will be ready to hit the ground running to deliver vital projects and help get New Zealand moving when the country moves out of the current Level 4 COVID-19 Alert lock down”.
When it opens in mid-May 2022, the Ara Tūhono – Pūhoi to Warkworth motorway will extend the four-lane Northern Motorway (SH1) 18.5km from the Johnstones Hill tunnels to just north of Warkworth. The motorway forms the first section of the government’s Pūhoi-to-Wellsford Road of National Significance – a 34 km four-lane motorway or expressway from the terminus of the Northern Motorway at Puhoi to north to Wellsford.
A further US$55 million, which had been agreed prior to COVID-19, is also being paid by the agency to cover extra costs and delays to work at the northern end of the project. The delays were caused by land purchases taking longer than expected and appeals to the Environment Court. This payment is not related to COVID-19. It brings the NZ Transport Agency’s total agreed contribution to the project to US$585 million.
As with all projects, the expected completion date is heavily dependent on good weather and no additional unexpected challenges, including further disruption as a result of COVID-19, said the agency.
While the NX2 private-sector consortium is responsible for financing, designing, building, maintaining and operating the motorway for up to 25 years, the motorway will remain a public asset under the public-private partnership deal.