This is a Guest Post by “Mr Anderson”
An article in Stuff today questions the Roads of National Significance programme and its economic benefits:
The Government’s $12 billion roads of national significance programme is upgrading routes used by as little as four per cent of the country’s traffic.
The Green Party wants the programme scaled back and says its research shows the routes carry only 400,000 of our 11 million daily vehicle trips.
Green transport spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter said the benefits did not justify the spending.
“The spending is disproportionate to the number of trips. We are spending money on projects you are unlikely to drive on. It’s an enormous amount for a few roads that have almost no traffic growth.”
Supporters say the improved network will increase traffic flow and lead to a lift in business productivity, but Genter said the benefits would be negligible.
I think the fact that traffic on the roads is not growing is more important than the percentage of the country’s traffic carried by the roads. How, I do think that most of the RoNS’s traffic is likely to be carried on two of the projects with the best BCRs: the Victoria Park Tunnel and the Waterview Connection. Take those out and the rest put together might be lucky to get to 1% of the country’s traffic.
NZTA’s response to this critique is typically vague – that the package will contribute to economic growth even though most studies of the projects suggest that many don’t deliver much on this promise:
Transport Association chief executive Geoff Dangerfield said highways played a significant role in trade, competitiveness and economic growth.
About $50b worth of goods entered the country each year, and 92 per cent of all freight, by weight, was moved by road.
The seven programme routes were linked to economic prosperity.
“These roads are linked to our five largest economic activity centres, Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington and Christchurch. Moving people and freight more safely and efficiently represents a critical investment. The programme improves access to our ports and markets, and puts infrastructure in place that will encourage growth.”
Dangerfield said the project would give gains “significantly beyond the costs”, and they would accrue beyond the 30-year time period the agency used to assess the benefits.
I think NZTA would be extremely glad to be able to do away with some of the RoNS projects so they’re able to fund other projects that make much more sense.