As much as I think Puhoi-Wellsford is a stupid project and a complete waste of money, I have now been convinced that it is nowhere near the worst of the Roads of National Significance. That incredibly dubious prize must, without a doubt, go to Wellington’s Northern Corridor RoNS. Not only does its Transmission Gully section have a pathetically low cost-benefit ratio of 0.6, its Kapiti Expressway slice through sacred grounds and split the community in half, but now we finally find out the details of exactly how horrific the Basin Reserve flyover will be in terms of its impact on the area. How bad is it? Pretty bad: Wow. These kinds of drawings always under-estimate the adverse impact of big structures (notice how the viaduct doesn’t cast much of a shadow) so in reality the roadway is going to look unbelievably horrific. Here’s another before and after: This is an iconic part of Wellington that is going to be completely ruined. The Basin Reserve is easily New Zealand’s most iconic cricket ground and is a massive landmark for the city. The long vistas along Cambridge and Kent terraces, looking towards the cricket ground are going to e ruined completely.
Typically, NZTA have offered a couple of options: the horrific and the slightly less horrific. The two options are outlined below: In the 1950s and 1960s many similar viaducts were built overseas (and in Auckland, see Victoria Park Viaduct as a shocking example). We had the Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco – which fortunately got nailed by the 1989 earthquake and has now been replaced by a brilliant open space: The Alaskan Freeway in Seattle is also going to be torn down – it was badly damaged in an earthquake, plus the city has come to the realisation that the freeway is destroying its waterfront: Both Seattle and San Francisco have come to the conclusion that elevated freeways through iconic parts of their cities are not really acceptable. Yet Wellington is about to have a 1950s solution forced on it, an elevated motorway through one of the most iconic parts of the city – potentially ruining it forever.
I know that the transport problem around the Basin Reserve is a very tough nut to crack. But there are other options here, with the bus tunnel in particular avoiding the whole mess. Why not focus on measures to further improve public transport along this corridor, to take pressure off the Basin Reserve bottleneck? That’s the beauty of public transport – you can achieve mobility without ruining the city. But I guess NZTA (and their political masters) really don’t care about ruining our cities.