A truly depressing article in yesterday’s NZ Herald indicating that NZTA are planning to spend another $160 million (which they can somehow whip out of a hat) on two previously unplanned motorway upgrades in Auckland. This comes at a time when public transport and cycling projects in particular are struggling for each and every dollar available to spend on them.
Both ends of Auckland’s western ring route will be widened at a cost of up to $160 million as early as next year, after the Transport Agency admitted underestimating traffic demand.
It said yesterday its board had given approval for sections of the Southern and Northern motorways to be widened to ease congestion and improve travel times.
Because the operations of the NZTA board are even less transparent, accountable and open than those of the Auckland Transport Board, we pretty much know nothing about the justification and details behind a decision to spend what is a pretty big chunk of money. Looks like my OIA requests to NZTA will have to continue to get some answers here.
The article continues:
That follows serious traffic delays where the ring route was joined to the Southern Motorway at Manukau in September in a $220 million project which was meant to provide a seamless link.
Congestion has eased somewhat since the agency restricted flows from the ring route to the main motorway, before installing traffic lights on the connecting ramp last week.
But after complaints from commuters about delays of up to 40 minutes reached Transport Minister Steven Joyce, the agency decided to bring forward the first stage of a previously unfunded plan to widen the Southern Motorway between Manukau and Papakura.
Its board has also decided to avoid similar congestion problems at the top end of the ring route, by widening the Northern Motorway between Constellation Drive and Greville Rd to cope with the extra traffic expected once the $1.75 billion Waterview connection completes the bypass route in 2016.
Alcoholics and drug addicts can generally be identified by their inability to stop drinking or taking drugs – they always say “oh just one more drink” or “just one more hit”. NZTA’s thinking on these roading projects indicates that they fall into the category of what one might call a “roads addict”. Despite all evidence to the contrary, that widening motorways does not solve congestion (just look at how congested our widest bits of motorway continue to be), the NZTA mindset continues to operate along the lines of “oh just one more roading project and we’ll fix things for good!” When that doesn’t work (like the SH20-SH1 connection), instead of starting to wonder whether their assumptions were right in the first place, NZTA simply look at the next widening project. Maybe it will be the next project which finally manages to fix congestion, and then the next and the next.
It really it quite galling to see how easy it is for motorway projects to get funding – even very significant funding for projects that haven’t even been on the books. Meanwhile, back in the real world of public transport projects, we need to fight for every single dollar. The double standard is rather depressing.