The latest meeting of the Auckland Council transport committee includes, for information purposes, the final version of the council’s submission on the Puhoi-Warkworth section of the Puhoi-Wellsford “holiday highway”. I previously blogged about the draft version of the submission, but as there was plenty of discussion on the matter at the last Transport Committee meeting, it’s worthwhile following up on the final form of the submission. For ease of reading, I’ve extracted the submission out of the agenda, and you can read it here. I’ve included below an overview of the submission: For a while, when I first read the submission, I wondered whether the Council had missed an opportunity to come out more strongly against the project. Transport committee chairman, Mike Lee, has been a long-standing opponent of the holiday highway, and in fact coined that phrase. Auckland Council Mayor Len Brown has been a bit more neutral about the project, but certainly I would imagine if he were given a choice between it and a number of the rail projects he wishes to advance (and I really do think we only have enough money for one or the other) Mayor Brown would go for the rail projects.
However, on reflection I started to think about it in more detail and I actually think Auckland Council is taking the right position – a relatively neutral position, but one that seeks to ask a lot of questions about the project. Questions like the following:
- what are the project’s environmental effects and are they acceptable?
- does the project represent a ‘cost effective solution’ to the problems faced along state highway one north of Auckland?
- could we achieve many of the benefits of the project quicker and cheaper by advancing things like a Warkworth bypass and safety improvements?
- how does the project fit within Auckland’s growth and transport projects?
These questions align reasonably closely with the questions I like to ask about a transport project – and in the case of the holiday highway the answers generally tend to point towards not undertaking the project. The environmental effects are particularly severe, the project’s cost-benefit ratio is very low – and dicey at that, we could achieve most of the benefits (reduced congestion and Warkworth and safety improvements) quicker and cheaper by undertaking something similar to Operation Lifesaver, and finally – the project works against our growth strategy by encouraging sprawl instead of intensification, and will take money away from project that are much higher on the region’s priority list.
One matter where the final form of the submission seems to have been elaborated on compared to the draft submission is in terms of the potential wider traffic effects of the project. The point that I am particularly glad has been mentioned are potential impacts of the project on traffic flows along the Northern Motorway and on the Harbour Bridge. One of the obvious effects of extending the motorway further north will be an increase in traffic using the existing motorway. In some places, like between Oteha Valley Road and Orewa, that’s fine – because there’s sufficient capacity remaining on the road. However, further towards the city the motorway is pretty close to capacity (or beyond it), so adding further vehicles to the motorway will negatively impact on North Shore residents trying to cross the harbour bridge to get to work every morning. This is the kind of issue that seems to get ignored usually, so I’m glad it has been brought up.
Hopefully NZTA undertakes an in-depth analysis to answer many of these questions. It will certainly be interesting to see their response to the feedback provided by the public over the past few months, and whether anything changes as a result of it.