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The Wellington Street fiasco continues

The Herald reported this morning that there was discussion about the Wellington Street onramp at yesterday’s meeting of the Council’s Transport Committee. Discussion at that meeting revealed strong public support for reopening the ramp:

Support for reinstating a key Auckland motorway connection is shown in about 70 per cent of more than 700 public submissions, the Transport Agency acknowledged yesterday.

The Government organisation told Auckland Council’s transport committee that it had almost completed an analysis of the submissions and expected to start a new “community engagement” process next week.

It has infuriated communities from Karangahape Rd to Herne Bay by re-thinking a commitment to reopen the Wellington St motorway bridge after completing the $391 million Victoria Park tunnel project in February.

That is despite spending an undisclosed amount, believed to be several million dollars, on upgrading the ramp just south of the 450m tunnel.

I think it’s fairly inevitable that the ramp will be reopened. Despite numerous opportunities, NZTA has never detailed the argument for keeping it closed. In fact, they’ve never actually properly explained why it wasn’t reopened in the first place when the project was completed. The ongoing delays have just turned the whole process into a fiasco.

There may be an argument for not opening it in the evening peak, or for restricting the number of vehicles getting on the ramp during that time – as outlined by Ben Paul here. However the fact that NZTA has never come out an officially provided an argument for keeping the ramp closed (or the reason for not reopening it, which are presumably the same) makes me think they don’t have a particularly robust case.

In which case, just get on with reopening it. Enough bureaucratic messing around.

17 comments to The Wellington Street fiasco continues

  • They really need to rip out the traffic lights on the North Western to Northern motorway link. They cause massive delays, as you can see just by looking at the current Google Earth image for that location. It’s actually quicker to exit the motorway system, drive through the city, and rejoin the motorway at Fanshawe.

    • swan

      Have you been through lately? It is not nearly as bad now that the third lane in the tunnel is open.

      • Have you looked at the Google Earth image? The motorway is clear and the traffic is backed up not because of congestion, but because of the traffic lights. VPT makes no difference in regards to these lights. There shouldn’t be any lights on a motorway link at all.

        • swan

          I am just saying it has got a lot better since the third lane opened. They obviously changed the cycling rate. Ramp signals do improve the capacity of the motorway. There is a “fairness” question to be answered about limiting access in this way though – who should have their access limited? It tends to favour those making longer trips. All of which would be better solved through road pricing.

          • A lot better than what? In the March 2008 image you see very light traffic travels on SH1. The congestion on SH16 is not caused by high traffic volumes on SH1, but rather is caused by the lights.

          • swan

            My wife and I use this on ramp daily. I can assure you that since the opening of the third tunnel lane the queue time is markedly reduced. Obviously one doesnt necessarily follow the other; I assume they reconfigured the cycle times after the third lane was open. I agree that there are occasions where it seems bizarre that the on ramp lights are on. I am not sure if they run based on algorithms that monitor the motorway traffic flow, or are pre-set. I assume a bit of both.

        • Peter M

          The Google Earth image is from March 2008.

          • The date is irrelevant.

          • No, Geoff, the date is extremely relevant. There has been a huge amount of work done since 2008 that directly affects traffic flows through that area. You cannot present evidence that reflects nothing of that work and then claim that it’s irrelevant that things have changed. That’s like saying that it’s irrelevant that your car was made in 2005 when complaining that you didn’t have to get the WoF checked every six months in 2008 but do now.

        • Nick R

          Geoff the motorway in that image is flowing because the ramp metering lights were stopping it from getting totally congested. But the fact it isn’t full of stopped vehicles doesn’t mean the motorway is clear, the Vic Park viaduct is full of vehicles. They’re spaced at 25-30m intervals, which indicates speeds of about 60-70km/h.

  • Louis

    Personally I wouldn’t have bothered rebuilding Wellington Street but now that NZTA have wasted a lot of taxpayer’s money on it they might as well reopen it. If the 020 bus still used its old route then I would have been opposed to it. There is still the potential for the 020 to be held by traffic banking up Wellington Street which would be less than ideal – more of an incentive to use the express buses. The intersection between Wellington / Union and Union / Nelson street is really is a chaotic nightmare but I don’t see a clear solution for it (and now my bus doesn’t go down there I’m not so worried about it!).

  • Torbaite

    I hope when/if it does reopen there are clear, useful comparisons made. It makes a much better debate with good data to argue cause and solutions, rather than just having to debate a fact.
    Having said this anyone wish to state some measures which will be useful that can be done?

  • Geoff Houtman

    Deep down we all know why NZTA doesn’t want it opened. Spending 400 million dollars to move a traffic jam a few hundred meters could look bad to the rate and tax payers.

    Open it and embarrass them I say!

    Oh, and I met the people who claim to have got the whole VPT ball rolling- the biggest bunch of NIMBYs you will ever meet…

  • Peter

    All those 9-5 office workers should start taking the northern express, walk just a little to the bus stop to burn the blubber off your jiggly bums. No need to open the ramp.

  • @ Matt Clouds, the date is not relevant because the image shows a free-flowing SH1. Therefore any recent additional capacity given to SH1 does not change the situation. The date is therefore irrelevant. I still see traffic backed up at those lights in 2012. They shouldn’t be there, because the lights actually make the connection slower than going through the city. They also shouldn’t be there because it’s not an onramp, it’s a motorway-to-motorway link. It must be the only place on the planet where motorway traffic encounters traffic lights. Whenever I’m heading from SH16 to SH1 north, if I see the lights are on, I exit at Nelson, and rejoin at Fanshawe (or Wellington until it closed). It’s actually faster than using the direct link, because of those lights. It makes the whole link pointless.

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