The NZTA have awarded the contract for the “upgrading” of the St Lukes interchange and the widening of the motorway between there and Waterview. Here’s the press release:
The contract to construct the next stage of Auckland’s Western Ring Route – upgrading the Northwestern Motorway (State Highway 16) between the St Lukes Road and Great North Road interchanges – has been awarded to the Australian-based infrastructure company, Leighton Contractors.
The $70m project is jointly funded by the NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport.
A two kilometre-long section of the motorway will be widened from three to four lanes in each direction. There will also be improvements to the motorway ramps and the St Lukes Road -Great North Road intersection, while the St Lukes Road overbridge spanning the motorway will be widened to benefit drivers, walkers and cyclists.
The Transport Agency’s Highways Manager, Tommy Parker, says this is the last of six projects to connect the Northwestern and Southwestern (SH20) motorways.
“The upgrade is part of our programme to get our network ready for the increased volume of traffic when the Waterview tunnels connecting the Northwestern and Southwestern (SH20) motorways are completed in early 2017,” Mr Parker says.
Work is due to start in mid-autumn and be completed by late 2016. The other projects to connect the two motorways are the upgrade of the Maioro Street interchanges (SH20) which is completed, and the upgrade of the Lincoln and Te Atatu interchanges, the Causeway Upgrade Project, and the Waterview Connection, which are all under construction.
“Leightons bring plenty of infrastructure experience to the St Lukes project. The company is part of the Causeway alliance, and has been involved in some of our biggest Auckland developments including the Northern Gateway Toll Road and the Newmarket Viaduct Replacement Project.” Mr Parker says.
The Western Ring Route is a Road of National Significance, and will provide a 47km-long alternative to SH1 between Albany and Manukau. It will improve safety and city and regional transport connections for people and freight.
The project isn’t exactly a surprise as it’s been talked about for a while and was part of the overall Waterview consenting process that occurred a few years ago. In saying that it does once again bring into the limelight the claim often made (including in the last paragraph) that the Western Ring Route is about creating another route through the region when in fact this piece of work is all about making it easier to get from the airport to the CBD. This is even mentioned in the description on the project page.
The Waterview Connection project is one of the most important infrastructure developments ever to take place in New Zealand. Completing a motorway ring route around the city, it will unlock Auckland’s potential to become a truly world class city, combatting regional congestion and creating a direct, time-saving link between the International Airport and CBD.
The part of the project that is of most interest is the widening of the motorway bridge and the sections of Gt North Rd on either side. This is especially the case as the NZTA and Auckland Transport were at one stage looking to wipe out the large mature Pohutakawa trees that line the road so they could create one additional lane all in the aim of appeasing the gods of traffic flow. This is the before and after of what they showed to the local board a few months ago and which the board weren’t happy with.
The images below suggest they may have backed down on that though. As for what’s now going to be built, the NZTA say that the project includes:
- 3 lanes on the St Lukes overbridge in both directions
- Improved walking and cycling facilities across the bridge – you’ll be able to use both sides of the widened bridge
- Realignment the Northwestern Cycleway
Being able to use both sides of the bridge will be good but that seems to be the only thing.
Here’s what it will look like from above and facing south (click to enlarge)
Immediately there are a couple of major issues I see and they primarily relate to the intersection with Gt North Rd. Amazingly the NZTA and Auckland Transport are actually going to remove some of the few bits of existing pedestrian priority that currently exist. A person wanting to get from the eastern side of St Lukes Rd (where the carpark is) to MOTAT or Western Springs first has to battle their way across to the traffic island if they can find a gap in traffic thanks to the removal of the existing zebra crossing. Then instead of a simple trip across to the northern side of Gt North Rd they have to cross to the eastern side of St Lukes Rd and wait again to get across Gt North Rd.
It’s pretty clear that the primary focus of this project is about making it easier to drive at the expense of other modes. The extra lanes on the bridge are an attempt to squeeze a few more cars through the area. On westbound off-ramp there is also an additional queuing lane which will only serve to funnel extra volumes off the motorways and onto the local streets. It seems to be the typical ‘give every type of movement its own lane’ type approach that only ends up making life easier for cars. By in large everything seems very much the same business as usual crap we’ve seen for decades throughout Auckland.