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The Wellington St onramp saga

There have been a couple of articles in the NZ Herald this week relating to the ongoing saga around whether the Wellington Street onramp will be reopened. First yesterday:

Pressure is building on the Transport Agency to honour a commitment to reopen an Auckland motorway ramp which it closed during its $406 million Victoria Park tunnel project.

Western bays residents battling against having roads clogged by refugees from the continued closure of the Wellington St ramp won support yesterday from the Auckland Council’s transport committee.

The Automobile Association is also demanding the ramp be reopened, saying it understood the closure was to be only temporary, and the lack of motorway access from Wellington St was causing unacceptable congestion to local roads.

Although the Transport Agency spent an undisclosed sum upgrading the ramp, its future became uncertain when it opened two of the tunnel’s three lanes late last year, and was initially overwhelmed by long queues of traffic trying to get through it.

The article goes on to quote NZTA saying that they have an open mind around whether the ramp will be reopened or not, which does beg the question about why they haven’t reopened it yet to see what happens. Or the really interesting question about why their original plans to reopen the ramp have changed so much. Surely they should be analysing this kind of thing when designing a project?

This “the ramps were part of the deal” issue was then highlighted in another article in today’s NZ Herald, which points out the interesting question of whether the resource consent for the project relied upon the ramp being reopened:

Residents campaigning to reopen the Wellington St motorway ramp from central Auckland have been told its retention was a condition of approval for the new Victoria Park tunnel.

Former Auckland City Council member Graeme Easte has told them he believes the Transport Agency will need to obtain a change to the motorway’s land designation if it wants to keep the ramp closed to general traffic.

Mr Easte, one of a seven-member hearings panel which, in 2006, approved a designation application by the former Transit NZ, said: “We were told that the Wellington St on-ramp would be retained in modified form.

“As local councillor, I was well aware of resident concerns about existing traffic loads on Curran St and would not have approved closure of the Wellington St on-ramp if it had been proposed.”

One would think that if keeping the Wellington street onramp was a condition of the Victoria Park Tunnel project proceeding, then the ramp will need to be reopened.

My feeling is that this is just another example of how selfish and narrow-minded NZTA have become over the past few years in trying to improve traffic flows on the motorway any way they can – including by pushing congestion off the motorway and onto local roads. The ramp signals are often a classic example of this mentality: yeah sure they speed up traffic a little bit on the motorway, but they do that simply by shifting the congestion onto the onramps and onto the streets feeding into the motorway. There’s no net gain, just endless frustration of sitting there going nowhere for ages.

I’m enjoying seeing NZTA getting egg smeared all over their face on this issue. They deserve it.

29 comments to The Wellington St onramp saga

  • Harvey Specter

    Another thing that seems weird now that this project is ‘completed’.

    On the onramp that comes from the Port and the Northwestern, they still operate the traffic lights even though they get their own lane once they enter the motorway. The lights therefore aren’t there to control the numbers coming onto the motorway. They are only there to control the “merge like a zip” between the Port and NW lane. Overkill in my opinion.

    As for Wellington Street, I am not a use so dont care but if I was a nearby resident, I would be very annoyed. It would be interesting to see how much extra congestion this adds around Victoria park (coming down College hill and Franklin road but converging at the Fanchaw street onramp). This is already a busy area so they need to argue that they are making this area even more congested.

  • bbc

    I disagree – I think NZTA wasted a lot of money rebuilding but don’t think it should be reopened. It’s also really not a ramp used by ‘locals’ as it only heads north, so in fact for those people who live on Herne and Wellington Streets the closure has reduced traffic in the area and brings some sanity back to motorway overbridge which previously was awful to walk over. Unless they do some major work such as removing the free right turn onto the onramp, and putting a pedestrian crossing across the onramp it will continue to be an example of the cars first priority that typifies Auckland projects. Why are people walking into the city from this part of town hated so much?

  • LL

    Keep the on-ramp closed, if it is opened the traffic will grind to a halt again entering the tunnel as cars(drivers) try and merge, it will be like it was with 2 lanes only. On-ramps need a dedicated lane when there is heavy traffic and the way things are now with the on-ramp closed works. The alternative is to only have it open in non-peak traffic times and close it Monday to Friday from 4pm to 7pm.

  • Ari

    No net gain?? It is generally accepted that ramp meters have a positive benefit because kiwi’s are terrible at merging on the motorway causing unecessary congestion. The argument is over how much of a benefit. It may be bad for the people along Curran, but I prefer keeping it closed. Wellington St was a mess in the afternoons with all the people from the CBD trying to get onto the motorway. It was dangerous for pedestrians to walk along with all the big office blocks near there and with so many cars turning in front of you like they had right of way on the footpath. It is so much better now.

    • Scott

      I agree with ari. It is generally accepted that the auckland ramp signals do cause net gains. Remember a moterway flowing at 80kmph moves heaps more vehicles per hour than one crawling at 2Kmph.

  • Sanctuary

    Would it possible to do a partial re-opening, you know close the on-ramp with automatic barrier arms between 8am and 6pm?

  • James B

    Open it and add a pedestrian crossing across the ramp and on the Western side of the intersection across Wellington Street. The intersection of Wellington Street and Franklin Road is coming under massive pressure and is likely to see a serious accident. Fanshawe Street is backing up along Beaumont/Victoria/Franklin as far as the supermarket and Curran Street is backing up as far as Ponsonby Road.

    The key issue seems to be that there is no entrance to the motorway going north along the southern part of Spaghetti Junction. This means that people coming from northern Mt Eden/Kingsland/Eden Terrace have to go through town or Ponsonby in order to get to Fanshawe Street. I still believe the best solution would be to have a new set of on/off ramps at Newton Road to take traffic from the southern CBD to the North Shore. This would have the advantage of removing this traffic from CBD/Ponsonby streets, getting rid of Wellington Street and Union Street off ramps.

  • Ingolfson

    Seeing how dominated our inner city is by motorways and motorway on-ramps, and motorways used for local trips – I too think there’s a case for keeping it closed, as much as there is a case for reopening it. Also, a 2007 consent, and 5 years later they changed their minds? So what? How is that *morally* despicable, which seems to be the thrust of this blog post?

    • Bbc

      If this site is going to live up to the level of posts that jarbury used to provide then they are going to need to improve on knee jerk snarky comments such as how this one ends. It was the well researched, well argued posts that kept me coming back.

  • Geoff Houtman

    I thought the point of this post was “NZTA breaks promises and ignores locals”.

    Re-open the damns thing!

    As a by the by there’s a traffic counter thing across Pons Rd at the moment, so I think someone is frantically looking for some ammunition (one way or the other).

    The counter is on the South end though- so it’ll only catch the Hepburn-Pons- Jervois crowd and not the Wellington- Franklin lot.

    I hope this is not on purpose?

  • Bryce

    I think re-opening this on-ramp would be a retrograde step. Wellington St always created a slow / vs fast traffic situation at just about any time of the day. The problem stems from the close proximity of the Port / NW on ramp – which has to take priority, surely?

  • Ok, whole bunch of issues here. Sure Geoff listen to the locals, but not when they’re just trying to move a problem to the next neighbourhood like the Herne Bay residents are. Especially as opening W St will not reduce the traffic on their streets, not to any real degree, and certainly not like investing more in alternatives to driving would.

    The real issue is that the CMJ, despite the recent hundreds and hundreds of millions thrown at it and a lot of pretty clever engineering to squeeze more lanes through its ROW is just not capable of meeting every movement needed for the growing City. I do have some sympathy for NZTA here, well sort of, if only they would publicly say that too much is being asked of the urban motorway system and it desperately needs relief with a serious complimentary system then I would have sympathy. My guess is that they are crossing their traffic engineering fingers and hoping that completion of the WRR will do it. Fat chance in my view; just more driving, and more traffic delivered to the CMJ.

    This is the underlying problem that the Wellington St ‘saga’ is really flagging. There are more problems with this onramp than just that it turns a residential hood into part of the motorway system and that it tips a fragile underpass entrance into dysfunction. It also attracts Shore bound drivers from the city to try to work their way through the Hobson/Nelson/Union St quagmire tipping that borderline dysfunctional system into gridlock at the rush hour.

    And this is where I lose patience with the Authority, instead of desperately clinging to their next mega project to magically ‘solve’ the problem of simply too many people driving, it should clearly say to Auckland and especially the government that the solution can not lie in building more driving amenity and therefore encouragement but that the time has well and truly come to invest properly in the public transit alternatives to driving in order to keep the motorways working well.

    I don’t know whether it’s balls or brains that they need to grow: can’t they work it out, or they can but are just too scared to talk truth to their even more deluded government bosses?

    Advice anyone?

  • Louis

    When the 020 was routed along Wellington and Union Streets I was very keen to keep it closed as the congestion in that area was painful enough without the onramp open. When it was the traffic would be banked up all the way down Wellington Street and would have slowed the bus down severely.

  • The NZTA have handed themselves another disaster. They should have said that the ramp will never open, but now this has become a political issue that is most likely going to be decided from emotive calls rather than intelligent ones.

    The Wellington Street on-ramp is now a ramp that is superfluous to requirements, for the people who champion its opening, they know it is more ‘convenient’ than an actual ramp that serves a proper purpose. They should read the facts before causing a ramp to open that causes more issues than it solves.

    The biggest call is that Curran Street on-ramp is now significantly busier, but since the third lane in the Tunnel opened, Curran Street on-ramp during peak time has dropped 30% and patterns show that this trend is continuing. The risk is that if Wellington Street reopens the congestion that is caused from it (or in the near future) will encourage people to take the Curran Street ramp again, therefore defeating the purpose.

    Graph of usage here: http://blog.aucklandmotorways.co.nz/rampgraph.html

    The Wellington Street ramp will also be so stringently managed by Ramp Signalling that it will only allow 6 vehicles per minute through (based on a max 10 second cycle time), therefore making the viability of the ramp practically useless.

    Fanshawe Street (with its PM peak lane) and the Port/North Western to Northern links are now the ramps CBD traffic should use, as they are well designed to take traffic from either side of the CBD. The now less constricted nature of these ramps will further reduce volumes at Curran Street (as it is discouraged to use anyway) and the former ramps’ usage will increase.

    I do sympathise with people who wish to see the ramp opened however, but only because the NZTA has not really taken a strong (or any) stance at all.

    • If those numbers are accurate, and they a little odd with sudden recent changes vaguely lining up with the third lane opening why aren’t NZTA telling the Herne Bay complainers to sod off as they are wrong about the on ramps generating more traffic? Are they wrong? If so seems an easy way to deal with a problem using the one thing NZTA know how to do; count cars.

  • John Bower

    Joshes suggestion was to Keep Wellington St closed and open a new on ramp from Newton Road. The ramp is already form as a construction access and there is an existing deadend street there.
    What is wrong with this suggestion? It wont alter the flow from the southern motorway although it could effect the North Western especially when S20 links up.

    • Bryce

      Actually, I think that would work.

      • Yes it could work but would still cause merge problems if NZTA’s aim is to keep motorway speeds up through the CMJ. A vain hope anyway as more people are forced to use it. Especially as this new on ramp would meet the NW to N lane just as it splits from the Nelson St route and curves to the left. Looks tricky, crashy. So everyone would need to be slowed down here. Still it seems their main concern is to limit the amount of traffic going in to the Vic Park underpass so it can ‘flow’ (success!), and local quality of life be damned.

        As it would be great if it meant Grey Lynn, Arch Hill, Newton, Eden Tce, Sandringham etc drivers heading to the Shore didn’t need to go through Ponsonby to get on the bridge it looks attractive, sensible. Certainly Newton Rd would suffer from the new complexity of the intersection where the new onramp starts, but Newton road, in fact all of Newton as a place, was sacrificed decades ago for this monstrosity and is already nothing but an inhuman traffic sewer. So better further degrade there than still pleasant residential areas? Anyway, despite their denials, when have NZTA ever cared about local impacts, beyond their recent conversion to gardening mitigation?

  • Peter M

    To clarify my post, I’m not necessarily saying that the ramp should be reopened because that’s the best transport outcome. I’m saying that NZTA have handled the process horrifically and are continuing to do so – so they deserve all the crap they’re getting. Perhaps it’s slightly facetious, but I want the ramp reopened to almost prove a point: that they can’t undertake this kind of process in the future.

    Key points:

    1) Has it ever actually be explained why the ramp wasn’t reopened? No. That’s just stupid, stupid, stupid. If there’s a problem with reopening the ramp, please let us know. And for goodness sake fire someone who didn’t pick up the problem earlier.

    2) When was it known that there was going to be a problem with reopening the ramp? If it was ages ago, then for goodness sake why did NZTA continue to lie to us about the closure being temporary?

    3) If NZTA knew that closing the ramp was going to cause problems on local roads (and it seems like this was generally know, see Graeme Easte’s comments in NZ Herald article), but they also knew that reopening the ramp would be problematic for the motorway network, then for goodness sake why didn’t they explore other options?

    As Benjamin said above, NZTA have handed themselves a huge disaster here. And perhaps I’m wallowing a little too much in the schadenfreude of it, but it serves them right.

    • To say that the ramp should open due to spite is quite funny, I like it! Although the spite and hilarity of it would probably wear off for the residents themselves, as they would find themselves eventually wallowing in more congestion (on Curran Street most likely). But if you read between the lines in your post, while NZTA should get some well deserved anger, they should also man-up and say “nope we’re closing it” for the valid reasons. The NZTA worries too much about public opinion, while this is somewhat of a good thing (in small doses) they’re a government department, and will never win.

      The biggest argument against opening the ramp is that why should we have to provide access to the motorway too free and easily? The motorway is supposed to give access for longer journeys – and if longer journeys cannot be provided (i.e. with having to cross the Harbour Bridge)…that traffic should be feed from ramps that are designed to add that volume. Wellington Street just encourages commuters to get back in their cars, save a bit of time (instead of using the other two ramps) and contributes more to Auckland’s problem. Selfish car driving.

      • Geoff Houtman

        I’m getting confused in this thread.

        If having the onramp closed is causing more congestion in Curran, but opening it will cause more congestion in Curran- what’s the difference?

        Cause and effect seem not to apply here?

        If my second sentence is true we may as well just reopen it- at least there will be extra convenience for Freemans Bay, Ponsonby and Grey Lynn residents who want to head north yes?

        • Geoff, the issue is that since the third lane in the tunnel has opened (March 26th) the volume at Curran Street has dropped by 30%. This means that because it is free flowing into and through the tunnel, people who used to use Curran Street to access the Northern Motorway are now using the Port/North Western to Northern links.

          Therefore if Wellington Street opens, congestion will be caused when entering the Tunnel, and the Port/North Western to Northern link will become less attractive to use – hence the traffic will return to Curran Street.

          Have a look at the link I posted further up for the trends of events on Curran.

          • Benjamin dont you agree that behind this small saga isn’t the real issue that the CMJ is expected to do too much? It is expected to carry inter regional traffic and little Johnny to Grammar, commuters to and from the city and nearly everyone and everything across the Harbour.

            To enable this one massive system to keep functioning we desperately need to provide some meaningful relief to it not just squabble over its details. Why oh why doesn’t NZTA see that the real answer to keeping its existing systems functioning and uncontroversial is to build the transit systems that will take meaningful load off its state highways. The CRL with its equivalence of ten new motorway lanes from the very areas that feed this junction is the only answer. And by growing the functionality of the rail system this will also offer the best way to provide relief across the harbour in the future.

            Of course the problem is that NZTA is really just a highway builder and seems completely unable to understand that is a movement issue and not just a road one. Solve the real problem don’t just tinker at the edges. Or am being harsh and they know this but can’t speak across government policy?

          • Geoff Houtman

            Thanks Benjamin- so the Curran St traffic is decreasing? I wonder why the Herne Bayvians are insisting it’s rising?

            Just spotted another pair of traffic counters on Pons Rd, and apparently one on Curran again, so someone is gathering the latest info.

            So that’s progress.

            Just worried a little about the horizontal axis on the graph, every year is evenly spaced until the last 2 months which take up the same length as a year. The last remnants of my high school maths brain are telling me this is not quite accurate.

            True?

  • I totally agree that the CMJ is expected to do too much, hence to keep Wellington Street shut to simplify the interchange. Wellington Street on-ramp was constructed in the 70s for the North Western to Northern Connection through the city, now that has been provided for via the links. Therefore the link does not have a purpose other than to provide easier access from the city, whilst affecting mainline traffic.

    I agree about not squabbling over the details too, the system shouldn’t be so fragile, perhaps Wellington Street’s opening could be reviewed once the Western Ring Route is complete and there is less mainline northbound traffic heading via the Southern & Northern.

    The NZTA will have people who do see what we are saying (along with their Becas and what-have you), but now Auckland Transport is involved and not supporting them, it will only become more of a fight.

  • Glen

    As an infrequent user of the CMJ I don’t have an opinion either way of whether the ramp should be re-opened or not. But a decision needs to be made either way. Today, I used a GPS to navigate unfamiliar roads near the CBD onto the Northern Motorway… and the (recently updated) GPS took us to Wellington St., because as far as the official maps go, Wellington St. still exists. Sure, the detour to Fanshawe St was signposted, but what a rabbit warren… as a previous poster said, NZTA needs to front up and make a decision.

    • Scott

      Google maps thinks there is an off-ramp form SH1 to Franklin Rd. (try get directions from “Parnell” to “college hill”). So even with a contently updated online navigation system (such as android navigate) you can still get sent wrong.

  • conan

    NZTA is consulting over Wellington St now. For details: http://www.nzta.govt.nz/about/media/releases/2007/news.html

    • Geoff Houtman

      The gall of their cheap spin is appalling!

      So whatever happens theyve already decided not open it until after August?

      Bowl of sham “consultation” anyone?

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