Follow us on Twitter

NZTA confirms that another harbour crossing not needed soon

Over the last few months we have done quite a number of posts looking at the issues of a potential new harbour crossing and I think that it may have started to frustrate some from the North Shore. particularly councillor George Wood. He has became much more vocal on the issue though social media and calling for the bridge to be built as soon as possible. Well it seems that it has attracted the attention of the Herald who ran a piece today about it that has provided some useful information about the need for the project. I did have a little laugh right at the start as one of the things I had questioned earlier in the year was if there would be any North Shore politicians who would actually stand on a platform of not building another road crossing

North Shore leaders will this year ramp up calls for a new Waitemata Harbour traffic crossing, even though the Transport Agency does not believe one will be needed before 2030.

Although the agency expects to update an application to protect a preferred route for tunnels under the harbour towards the end of the year, Auckland Council member and former North Shore mayor George Wood fears complacency setting in.

He says community groups such as the Northcote Residents Association want to be involved in planning for a new crossing but are being kept in the dark about a proposal which follows at least six studies since 1986 and doubt about the longevity of the existing harbour bridge.

Arguing for the bridge on the grounds that it is old and could fall apart seems to have been a mainstay argument for those that want a new road crossing and helpfully the NZTA have addressed this.

Having recently spent $86 million strengthening the bridge’s two clip-on structures, the agency is focused mainly on its ability to cope with increasing freight loads.

Mr Town said that with careful management, there was no reason why the 54-year-old bridge could not last for another 100 years. But he said the “critical path” for bridge loads was heavy vehicles travelling on the northbound clip-on lanes, for which forecasts indicated a new crossing would be needed by 2030.

Even so, the agency did not want to build the new crossing too early, for cost reasons.

“It’s expensive, so getting the timing right is the thing,” he said.

The agency in early 2011 estimated the cost of a pair of road tunnels at $5.3 billion compared with $3.9 billion for a new bridge, and the Auckland Plan cites a figure of $5.8 billion to include future provision for trains.

Mr Town acknowledged that technological advances were likely to reduce tunnelling costs, while those for a new bridge were unlikely to fall markedly.

But he said “one of the big unknowns” was what the completion in 2017 of the western ring route with its connection to the Upper Harbour Bridge at Greenhithe would do for heavy traffic movements.

“It will provide a genuine heavy traffic option – between 2017 and 2021 we will be looking really closely at travel patterns.”

So the bridge is obviously fairly structurally sound and the issue then becomes a question of when the clip-ons need replacing. The NZTA seems to admit that it will depend a lot on what happens after the completion of the Western Ring Route. You may also recall that we found that the traffic predictions that had been used in the previous business case used incorrect data so it is quite possible that combined with the WRR this could see the need for replacing the bridge pushed out a lot longer than 2030.

Chart2

Traffic volumes predicted in the AWHC business case vs actual

The other major issue with a new crossing would be the impact on the city centre. The current thinking is for the new crossing to link directly into the existing motorway system and to turn the harbour bridge into a kind of big off ramp. By taking the through traffic off the bridge, it would leave a hell of a lot of unused capacity on there which would have the effect of making it easier to drive to the city. That would severely impact not only the performance of the Northern busway but would see potentially thousands more cars per hour dumped into the city centre when all of the councils plans are focused on trying to reduce vehicle numbers that area.

So far everything seems to point to the conclusion that we are both unlikely to need the crossing for at least a few decades and that even then we might not want it due to the impact it would have on the rest of the city. That kind of brings me back to my question from earlier in the year and wonder when will we get a politician who is brave will actually stand up and say this to the residents of the North Shore?

I think the other thing worth pointing out from this article is it confirms that the NZTA are now looking at a combined road and rail tunnel like has been done in some places overseas. In this situation the tunnel diameter is big enough that a train line can be run below the road deck as shown below. If we must have a new road crossing then it does make sense to do it this way and it is interesting to see the NZTA say that the tunnelling costs are likely to reduce as the technology improves. My preference at this stage however would be for a dedicated and much cheaper rail tunnel first and to only build the road crossing if it is still needed after that (the business case costed a rail tunnel at $1.6b vs $5.3b for a road tunnel).

The same tunnel with a Bombardier ART light metro train under the road deck.

22 comments to NZTA confirms that another harbour crossing not needed soon

  • Mr Anderson

    Plus if any crossing was built both it and the existing harbour bridge would be tolled. Is George Wood really advocating the reintroduction of tolls on the harbour bridge?

    • Ha! Yes, that is exactly the rumour you want to spread.

      It is an election year this year…

    • The toll issue is a kicker and could simply bury the whole scheme.

      You have to toll the existing bridge too otherwise you’ll have everyone hopping off and Fanshawe St and up through town to get back on the motorways. You have to toll it in both directions, otherwise everyone will drive in one way and use the Western Ring Route for the other.

      I did a quick back of the envelope calculation and figured the toll would have to be around $8 each way (!) to pay for just half the tunnel in 30 years. I wonder if George Wood would be happy to stand up in front of the Shorites and tell them he’s going to start charging them $16 return to use the Harbour Bridge, just to build a tunnel that doesn’t seem to be needed at all.

      But you have to wonder just how many people would drive across the harbour if the crossings were tolled? It might be a case that there is simply no toll level suitable to pay for it. Set it high and you drive away all the traffic, set it low and you don’t recover enough funds.

  • Greg N

    Gotta shake my head at the Herald hack obviously right out of journo school who wrote the Herald story, which I read earlier today.
    They put two half-arsed statistics together. mixed averages and trends up in their head to make a ridiculous conclusion on the bridge traffic as follows:

    1. “average daily traffic volumes across the harbour bridge declined by about 5 per cent between 2007 and 2011 to about 157,000 vehicles after the establishment of the Northern Busway”
    2. ” they rebounded by 7 per cent last year to almost 168,000 in November”

    The conclusion (- by mixing 12 month averages and monthly “peaks”) is – that just like that, even after the expensive bus service – we’re back over the 5% reduction from 2007-2011 by 2% so the “blip” of declining traffic since 2007 is over.
    .
    What they don’t say is that the stats show the traffic is down 5% a year, each year since 2007, and the average for 2012 is trending up again but is not even where it was in 2010 annualised.
    Yes November was a peak month for traffic, as it is every year, but 1 peak does not the average make.

    All up its hardly the major “rebound” in traffic numbers is it to justify $5+b on a new bridge soon. But its then used as the hook to hang the rest of the story on.
    You could have come with a better angle than that with 5 minutes of googling Mr Reporter.

    And gotta hand it to George Wood, on about “gotta have a new bridge soon regardless” – because:

    “Mr Wood said Auckland’s northern sector was due for a resurgence of development, for which a new crossing was needed urgently, regardless of the western route’s appeal as a bypass for some long-distance traffic.
    I’m just amazed it has started drifting in the way it has,” he said of the crossing debate. “I have a real concern – the upper part of Auckland would be paralysed if anything happened to the harbour bridge.”

    Well, maybe NZTA is right and “we don’t gotta have a new crossing soon” George.

    As they said lets see the impact once the WRR route is done, Then through trucks have alternative option of using the WRR as its designed to do.
    If not, why bother with the WRR at all?

    And should anything happen on the bridge or northern approaches now, the Upper Harbour bridge is the alternative – yes its not the shortest, but it works
    - so the paralysis won’t occur like you say.

    Then the Herald reporter takes a right hand u-turn down memory lane, looking back at the past and how the current bridge was a cheapie design with 4 lanes, no pedestrian or cycles because of the effects of austerity at the time (more like due to a lack of proper vision from the planners and politicians at the time ). And then it starts on about the effects of the bends for folks building the foundations

    Say what – whats that got to do with a second crossing – merely padding in a poorly written article.

    Only real info was that near the end and that was that the original traffic predictions were so woeful that by 1965 it was carrying 10 million vehicles annually (about 27397 a day on average), over 3 times forecast. Actually that 27K per day was probably more like 35,000 during weekdays, and lesser volumes the rest of the time.

    Using that stat – you can determine how much traffic has grown on the bridge – 5 times 35,000 more to the peak in 2007. A useful fact, since we only doubled the capacity when adding 4 more lanes in 1969.

    No comment was made about the clip-ons that were another cheapie “austerity” compromise
    - the original bridge was designed for 8 lanes of traffic, and if the bridge designers proposal to add the addtional 4 lanes the proper way using traditional tired and tested and over engineered construction over the New fangled cheap Japanese clip-on concept had been chosen, then NZTA would have a 8 lane bridge that would last indefinitely.
    Not the one they have now for which half the lanes could wear out thanks to increased truck traffic and they have to do continual maintenance on the clip-on lanes each year..
    .
    Now that would be a good angle for the next story – cover how multiple rounds of penny pinching and bad political decisions
    - only a 4 lane traffic bridge,
    - lack of accurate traffic predictions,
    - cheap clip-ons,
    - premature removal of tolls

    To name some obvious one, has hampered the current bridge, weakened its overall design life and made life generally difficult all round for everyone..

    Since we made so many mistakes in a row with the current bridge, maybe, just maybe, a little bit more science on this crossing – the most expensive one that will be built to date – is called for?
    Not too much to ask is it?

    Oh and Herald Guy, can we have a proper facts based story on the bridge for once?

    • I have met Mathew Dearnaley a few times, I wouldn’t exactly say he was “straight out of journo school”

      • Greg N

        First half of that story is under Matthew Dearnaley’s name.
        But the story under the “Austerity bridge” is a separate story (side bar) – tag line that says “-Nicholas Jones” at the end.
        Seems to me that Nicholas Jones is the most guilty of lightly over the facts once .
        but Matthew is the one who put the two factoids together at the start though – I’d expect better from such a seasoned hack!

        • JohnP

          Yeah, those patronage stats were pretty misleading. Made it seem like traffic was already back above 2007 levels, which I thought was pretty dubious.

  • Sacha

    Matthew would laugh, I hope.

    Thoughts on this gem?:

    “Mr Wood believes completion of the Victoria Park motorway tunnel in March is encouraging more commuters to get back in their cars after previously using the busway to beat congestion.”

    • Luke E

      I wonder if Mr Wood realises pretty much no one who uses the Vic Park tunnel comes from the CBD. Or that the busway exists in name only northbound through St Mary’s bay, and so doesn’t beat congestion at all.

      More likely he’s done no research on the harbour crossings, and just supports it for political purposes.

  • Malcolm

    I wonder how many people know that if a new harbour crossing is built, then that and the harbour bridge will be tolled. Thats the plan, isn’t it?

  • Jon Reeves

    2nd harbour crossing, North Shore councillor, local body election year = cogs turning over putting this all together.

    Shortly Cameron “do nothing” Brewer will pop up in the media again. 4 lane highway from Mission Bay to the CBD?

  • SteveC

    “My preference at this stage however would be for a dedicated and much cheaper rail tunnel first and to only build the road crossing if it is still needed after that (the business case costed a rail tunnel at $1.6b vs $5.3b for a road tunnel).”

    The problem here is that even if the tunnel is cheaper, a rail tunnel on its own does nothing for the Shore. THere has to be a decent rail service that covers the area (I still want to call it a city), if only a single line with stations at Takapuna, Wairau Valley, Constellation Drive and Albany.

    The problem with focussing on the harbour crossing alone (and consequently the problem with pretty much all the recent work) is that it doesn’t account for the flow on effects on the transport network for the Shore, road or rail.

  • Torbayite

    If the heavy Vehicles are the problem it would seem to show the value of keeping the Railway line to Wellsford and Whangarei open.

  • Torbayite

    OOPs forgot to say heavy vehilces on North Bound clip on lanes are the problem

  • obi

    I’m not in favour of combining rail and road in the same tunnels. We need a bit of redundancy on such a critical route, and the old harbour bridge wouldn’t be in any position to handle the transferred traffic from both a road tunnel and a rail line.

    If the issue with the current bridge is with heavy vehicles on the clipons, then why not just restrict them to the center lanes? In fact, why not just close the clipons to all traffic between, say, midnight and 5am. Surely any reduction in wear and tear must extend the life of the bridge?

  • Anthony

    If another road connection is needed soon, then best reintroduce tolls ASAP to pay for it. See what that does for traffic volumes and the proportion of bus commuters

  • Greg N

    Todays Herald’s opinion piece (the so-called “Editorial”) on the “second crossing” (see this link http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10861808 ) says amongst other things that the CRL is going to trip up the building of the second crossing as Auckland (and by extension “the country”/Government) can’t afford to do both in the next 10-20 years!

    The obvious point overlooked as is pointed out here, is that any second harbour crossing involving vehicles will without a doubt require both the new tunnel and old bridge to be tolled.
    And there is no discussion at all on that point. A train tunnel is paid for directly by the users of the trains using it as a side-effect of using it.
    A harbour crossing used by vehicles can only raise the revenue to fund either by generous government grant or by explicit tolls. PT users automatically pay for it via their tickets.

    The last two paragraphs sum the position the Herald sees quite nicely:

    “Which is the more efficient and vital recipient of the nation’s economic resources? The case is clear for a harbour crossing, only timing is in dispute. The case for the CBD rail link is persuasive but unconvincing, a costly, nice-to-have project which in theory would relieve traffic congestion and alter residential development.

    Does the North Shore want or need rail in any case? The Northern Busway has been a successful public transport option and would presumably be more effective if the harbour bridge is decongested by a parallel road tunnel.”

    This is in a sense the governments take on the situation – “second harbour crossing for cars = doubleplusgood , anything with rails on it = doubleplusbad”.

    It merely ignores the fact that without a CRL in place, the second harbour crossing will become a major chokepoint for everyone and the effects of that will ripple out to impact everyone – PT, NEX or otherwise.

    And gotta love that last sentence – that the Northern busway would be so much better if all those pesky cars were got out of its way (by way of a second crossing).

    Well Hello, what do you think a railway is? A way to get pesky cars out of the way of the PT users!

    And Herald editor – where do you think all those “displaced from the harbour bridge” cars are going to go?
    Well actually, by the time the crossing is built, nowhere much, or very fast if they do, all that traffic will see to that – CCFAS shows us that.
    And by extension, the successful Northern Busway will be stuck in traffic too, going nowhere fast.

    By then we will have squandered another 20 years of action and be required to spend who knows how many tens of billions in 2030 dollars on yet another stop gap solution.

  • George Lane

    You do know that the NZTA proposal only has 4 or 5 vehicle lanes on the bridge aye?

    2 are for buses, and 1 or 2 are for pedestrains and cyclists.

    • George- yep. Still not worth it. For that 3.9BN we could have the CRL done AND light metro trains (Bombardier?) across the existing bridge to the Shore.

      Be nice to give our friends on the Shore rail as soon as possible I reckon…

    • No the proposal with the tunnel was to have one dedicated northbound buslane on the bridge, one walking/cycling lane on the eastern side and the southbound buslane would be shared with cars. That’s 6 lanes that vehicles can use.

Leave a Reply