Since the launch of our Congestion Free Network and how much it will cost we have had a few questions around what it means for the funding of improved roads. To try and clarify, we are not against funding going towards road improvements and our estimated budget for The Congestion Free Network is just over 40% of what is currently planned to be spent on transport over the same time frame. That means there is still scope for worthwhile roading projects to occur. In saying this government agreed too, are overkill and are akin to cracking a nut with a sledgehammer. So in this post I thought I would cover the projects we think should be considered to be built alongside the Congestion Free Network – Note: some of this is similar to what we discussed the other day following the government’s announcement.
State Highway projects
There are a number of state highway projects either already under way, or being talked about that have useful components.
Waterview and WRR - This is obviously already under way and in my mind is the piece that finally “completes the motorway network”, despite the goal posts for that target being a consistently moving target. One of the massive benefits to this is that it provides an alternative for vehicles travelling north to bypass the central motorway junction and the Harbour Bridge. It is also for this reason that we need to hold off on any plans for another road based crossing of the harbour as the WRR really needs some time to settle in and have its impacts felt before moving ahead with the harbour crossing project. The causeway upgrade also provides for some improved bus lanes which will be useful as part of our Congestion Free Network.
Upper Harbour Upgrade SH1/SH18 interchange through to Greville Rd – Improving the SH1/SH18 junction does seem like a good idea but I’m not sure we need the full motorway to motorway ramps as proposed in the most recent study we have seen. There are also a few other small sections in the area that could be addressed, such as the small single lane section westbound between Paul Matthews Rd and Albany Highway. However general widening of the section between Constellation and Greville should really wait until after the busway has been completed through to Albany and we see the impacts of that investment.
SH1 Manukau to Papakura widening – Once again there are some aspects to this project that make a lot of sense, in particular upgrading the Takanini interchange (especially the northbound onramp) and addressing the number of lanes southbound between Manukau and Takanini. At this stage I’m not convinced that widening Northbound or the section between Takanini and Papakura is needed. Again it would also be worthwhile waiting to see what impacts the PT projects have first before embarking on wholesale widening.
SH20A upgrade – Once again there are some parts that seem to make sense, particularly around the grade separation of Kirkbride Rd however the ITP seems to suggest that the road would also be widened, something I don’t see as needed once that interchange is addressed. With the Kirkbride intersection sorted out, the Montgomerie Rd intersection could be cheaply closed. The other advantage to this project is it could be tied in with the proposal to extend the rail network to the airport.
There is one other State Highway project that I am aware of – that isn’t on the ITP list – which may have some value during this time and that is the additional northbound lane between Penrose and Greenlane. The Ellerslie station was narrowed last year to make way for this project. Other State Highway projects on the ITP, like the Additional Harbour Crossing and widening SH20 from Mangere to Puhinui should be at least moved back till after 2030.
Local Road projects
There are some fairly sizeable local roading projects in the ITP, again some are worthwhile or at least have worthwhile components while others or specific parts of them make little sense.
AMETI – AMETI is one of those projects that improved with age, morphing from a version of the eastern highway proposal into a much more multi modal project. Crucially many of the roading elements of the project tend to focus on providing new road connections rather than just larger existing ones. They strongly focus on moving through traffic away from town centres, giving them a chance to develop more people friendly environments. The focus on new connections and bypassing town centres is a good thing and a strategy I will touch on more in later comments.
East-West Link – This is a project that we have looked at a recently. We definitely agree that some improvements are needed in the area, just not to the scale proposed. Instead smaller scale improvements should be considered first such as the ones below.
- Truck lanes on Neilson Street?
- A signalised intersection providing access into Metroport from Neilson Street?
- Widening the Neilson Street bridge over the railway line?
- Smaller scale interchange improvements at Onehunga?
- South-facing motorway ramps that link into the Southeast Arterial?
Other Local Road Projects in the ITP – The ITP also contains other local road projects, such as widening Lake Rd on the North Shore. I’m sure that there are plenty of people in the area that would love to see it however in almost all instances I think we should avoid widening unless the new lanes are at least limited to T2/3 initially. This way there are still benefits that can be accrued from the works however not doing so in a way that undermines the bus network by encouraging more people to drive.
Other Local Road Projects outside the ITP - As mentioned earlier, focusing on providing new connections and bypassing town centres is a good strategy compared to just continually widening existing roads. As such I feel that there are a number of road projects not currently on the ITP should be considered instead of some of the overblown widening projects like what is being proposed for Mill Rd. We have highlighted some of these before including a long talked about bridge across the Whau River between the Rosebank Rd and Hepburn Rd which would provide a real alternative to either the Gt North Rd or Te Atatu Rd interchanges.
Or this route in Pakuranga between Hope Farm Ave and La Trobe St which would amongst other things, allow for a logical third main bus route from the east to pierce right through the middle of the wedge of housing in the area while also providing substantial benefits for drivers, cyclists and walkers.
Now you will notice that I haven’t set costs or timeframes for these projects like we have with The Congestion Free Network and that is for two reasons. The first is that we simply don’t know what some of our suggestions for scaling back projects would cost. As for the timeframes, we are happy for these road projects to be prioritised based on need to fit in with the funding available. There are also bound to be some other local road projects that we would potentially support so please don’t consider this an exhaustive list. Ultimately these projects need to go through a robust analysis, something they won’t all pass and as such may be dropped or scaled back further.
I guess the key point from this post is simply to point out that we are not opposed to roading projects that stack up but that the key is ensuring that the roads we do build are actually what we need.