If you live in the North West and were looking forward to the end of what has now been over five years of constant road works along the Northwestern Motorway – which started with Lincoln Rd back in October 2010 – then don’t get your hopes up for the disruption ending any time soon. The NZTA are now starting to once again talking about the section they’ve so far missed in their grand widening schemes – the bit between Lincoln Rd and Westgate. What’s more despite being silent on the project for so long they’re now talking about starting the $100+ million widening project in little over six months with work expected to take till 2019 to complete.
The NZTA say the project involves
- Widening the motorway to create 3 lanes in both directions for motorists
- Creating bus shoulder lanes next to the motorway in both directions
- Extending the Northwestern Cycleway to create a 3-metre wide shared walking and cycling path from Lincoln Road to Westgate
- Improving the Royal Road interchange and ramps. Replacing, raising and widening Royal Road Bridge, creating an on-road cycle lane, shared walking and cycling path, and new footpath
- Replacing and raising Huruhuru Road Bridge
- Extending the Lincoln Road on-ramp heading westbound and replacing one side of the bridge over Huruhuru Creek
- New landscaping, urban design and lighting features
- New wetlands to treat stormwater run-off
- Improved safety barriers and new noise walls.
I’m not necessarily opposed to the project as there are some useful aspects to it but it does seem to have the typical motorway building approach to it – that being to widen everything around this section thereby increasing the justification for to spend a heap of money ‘fixing’ on the newly created bottleneck.
Probably the most useful aspect of the project for me personally and one I’m very keen to see built is the cycleway. Normally cycleways alongside motorways aren’t great however in this situation the motorway has a shallower grade than the surrounding streets do so will be a welcome addition. That brings me to my first issue/concern. The map above shows the cycleway veering off with the motorway ramps to Makora Rd which is steep and quite narrow. As Royal Rd is on a ridgeline it means that diversion adds additional height for those on bikes (or walking) to deal with. I’d prefer to see the cycleway pass under the offramp and then stick to the level of the motorway – obviously with a connection to Royal Rd. The diversion also adds at least two sets of traffic lights that need to be negotiated.
An issue perhaps even more important is the situation for buses. The NZTA are only building bus shoulder lanes in the project. While bus shoulder lanes are better than nothing it ignores that Auckland Transport want a full busway built on this section – although AT acknowledged in the West Auckland New Network consultation that bus shoulder lanes would go in first.
What it all means is that AT will still have to build a busway separately at some point in the future at a much larger cost rather than the NZTA taking the One Network approach they love to talk about these days. It also highlights another inconsistency the NZTA run with. You may recall in the debate before the current works were started we and others called for a busway along SH16. At the time the NZTA hid behind the then Auckland Regional Council’s Regional Land Transport Strategy (RLTS) which only suggested bus lanes alongside the motorway. That’s not the same situation with this section though as the route from Lincoln Rd to Westgate and beyond were included as part of a possible future Rapid Transit route between Henderson and Constellation Drive.
One aspect I am a little surprised about is that the NZTA are only going to upgrade the interchange as it is and that they’re not going to add north facing ramps.
As part of this now rapidly approaching project the NZTA are going to hold a few open days – note: these aren’t consultation, more just “here’s what we’re building”.
Come along to one of our open days where you can learn more about the project and talk to the project team.
When: Saturday 14 November, 10am – 2pm
Tuesday 17 November, 4pm – 7pm
Where: Royal Road School Hall, 112 Royal Road, Massey
They say that in time for the open days, this day next they’ll update their website with designs and more information about the project.
Lastly while actual construction doesn’t start till next year the timeline the NZTA have put out suggests we’ll start seeing some physical works soon such as removing houses in the way of the widening.