Yesterday Auckland Transport and the NZTA released their preferred route for the East-West link semi motorway. It consists primarily of a new road along the northern shore of the Mangere Inlet, something that has already been subject to a lot of change over the years.
Here’s what exists today (well a few years ago). You can see a little bit of variation but the past engineers have largely straightened out the foreshore.
And here’s what it looked like in 1940, before significant reclamation took place. You can also see the level of impact the mangroves are starting to have and they were bairly noticable.
Auckland Transport and the NZTA have just announced a new round of consultation for the East-West Link that ends up being pretty much identical to what was suggested by the business community in their four pages of paid advertorial last week.
They undertook consultation of a number of options back in October and the consultation report released today is beyond a joke. There are no figures to show what the feedback was and only makes comments such as “Some people told us …” or “Some people considered …”. There is no information about how many the “Some people” is or what the demographics of submitters are.
The biggest part of the news is that the preferred option for The East-West route is a four lane “limited access” state highway all along the northern foreshore of the Mangere Inlet. They stress it will not be a motorway but it sounds like it won’t be far off one. In addition to this any parts of Neilson St not already four laned will be widened and additional lanes will be added to SH20 between Neilson St and Queenstown Rd as well as SH1 as far south as Princess St.
Despite all this they also claim it will improve things for pedestrians, cyclists and bus users and to top it off say that the new road along the foreshore “will achieve positive environmental outcomes” for the Mangere Inlet. This seems like an awful lot of PT, cycle and green washing.
On the issue of cycling, the map below suggests the existing cycle facility along the foreshore will be cut off from the water by the road which doesn’t seem a good outcome at all. It also appears that it will cut off any option to extend rail to the airport.
In addition to the new road a number of changes are proposed on along the frequent bus route that will run between Sylvia Park and Mangere. A mix of separated and on street cycle lanes plus shared paths in some places is meant to improve cycling while for buses some sporadic transit lanes will be included however crucially it appears they will also be able to be used by trucks. It will be hardly fun waiting for a bus there and having a large truck rush past close to the kerb.
AT/NZTA are also going to be holding some open days on the project starting this weekend
- Saturday 20 June from 3 – 6pm. – Where: Onehunga Café, 259 Onehunga Mall.
- Thursday 25 June from 6 – 10pm. – Where: Onehunga Night Markets, Dress-Smart, 151 Arthur Street.
- Saturday 27 June from 9am – 2pm. – Where: Māngere Town Centre, 93 Bader Drive (outside the Māngere-Ōtāhuhu Local Board Office).
- Saturday 4 July from 3 – 6pm. – Where: Onehunga Café, 259 Onehunga Mall. .
At this stage there’s no indication of just how much this project will cost and I’ve asked AT for more details on that.
As I asked the other day, how much are the truckies prepared to pay for this new motorway?
Edit: AT have confirmed the new road will cost more than $1 billion while the bus and cycle improvements in the second image will cost $35 million
Yesterday the Auckland Business Forum sponsored four pages of op-eds in the business section of the Herald about the need to improve transport for businesses. Unfortunately it ended up being a bit of a case of who left the gates to Jurassic Park open and let the Roadasaurs out.
You can see all four pages below.
Perhaps the most hilarious of the pieces comes from the head of the National Road Carriers – a trucking lobby group – who effectively suggests that a Mad Max style apocalypse is imminent unless we take quick action to speed up the movement of trucks.
When trucks gridlock, Auckland stops. Virtually everything manufactured, imported, bought or consumed in Auckland is at some point transported by truck.
If truck movement stopped in Auckland, within the first 24 hours service stations would begin to run out of petrol, supermarkets and restaurants would have no fresh food, building sites and assembly companies using just-in-time suppliers would experience materials and parts shortages, and mail and other package deliveries would cease.
After a couple of days, food shortages would develop, motor vehicle fuel availability would dwindle, exports and imports of goods by sea and air would cease, as would operations of many wholesale and retail businesses. Thousands of Aucklanders would soon be out of work.
This demonstrates the critical importance of freight and goods delivery within Auckland’s transport system — when trucks can’t move, Auckland stops.
Freight is the backbone of the Auckland economy. It figures that if we are serious about improving our economy, we must get serious about tackling Auckland’s worsening traffic congestion and improving our productivity and efficiency.
As Auckland’s population grows, it is critical that we stop congestion spreading through the whole of the working day as it is starting to do in some areas of the city.
His other article suggests some of the ways trucks can be avoided where he suggests that trucks should be able to use the busway and bus lanes.
His big priority is the east-west link which he wants the government to take over and build as a RoNS – because you know it’s not like the NZTA is sitting around doing nothing. He suggests that a route along the waterfront on the Northern edge of the Mangere Inlet is good because it will “avoid community severance” and encourage the repair of the “environmentally damaged reclaimed land”. I know some Onehunga Foreshore groups support this option because they think they will get a new foreshore – like what is being done now next to the motorway – on the northern side of the inlet. Of course not that anyone will be able to easily access it due to the severance the motorway they want causes.
Seeing as this route is claimed to be so vitally important for truckies, I wonder how much they’re prepared to pay to use it – or are they expecting this to be a massive subsidy from the public towards their operations.
Also pushing to keep the trucks moving is a representative of the construction firms. In this case he’s primarily talking about trucks involved in construction. A case of the trucks must get through to be able to build more roads that will also end up congested. It’s a bit like groundhog day. He also calls for trucks to be able to use busways. He is of course correct when he says:
At the heart of an Auckland-Wellington strategy must be an accelerated effort to improve the city’s public transport system. Getting single-occupancy commuter vehicles off Auckland roads during the day would free up the capacity for contractors, transport operators and other essential trades.
However a few paragraphs later he then undoes that by stating that PT should only be funded if it doesn’t get in the way of building new stuff.
Meanwhile, increased public transport funding is only viable if it does not impact on the activities of the people who build the city.
One area I do agree with him on is in his other piece where he suggests there might be some advantages to merging the local aspects of the NZTA and Auckland Transport. I’d go further and suggest the rail network should also be included. A single agency managing the entire transport network could be useful if it also coincided with more autonomy in how the money is spent rather than the rigid Government Policy Status. That could mean motorway, PT and local road and even rail freight projects could be treated equally but there is little chance the government would allow this.
Stephen Selwood from the NZCID has also written a few pieces. In one notes that the current plans for an Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing add no new connectivity and that it wastes the transport budget. His solution to this is to make the tunnel longer and instead connect up to the eastern side of the CBD. However not content with that he also wants to revive the Eastern Motorway and suggests it be built as a tunnel so it “protects the views and amenity of the eastern suburbs”. It would then presumably link up with a larger AMETI project.
If the AWHC is estimated at $5 billion then how much is an approximately 14km tunnel from Glen Innes to the North Shore going to be?
Lastly both Selwood and Chamber of Commerce CEO Michael Barnett separately talk about and support the governments push for a transport accord. While I don’t necessarily disagree it seems that are taking the stance that Auckland’s current plans are fundamentally wrong. In my view we’ve seen a huge improvement in the work AT has done in it’s planning for the future and it’s starting to show that the plans of the past aren’t necessarily right or worth pursuing. This has been shown in examples like how they’re thinking of deferring the Reeves Rd flyover which would have just shifted congestion one intersection down the road and to invest the money in bringing forward PT improvements. Another is them looking at light rail as way of addressing looming bus congestion.
Of course there’s also the irony that the business groups are supporting the government in creating another year of delay and debate while also calling for urgent action to speed things up. Perhaps it’s time to stop having a bet each way and pick a position. To me it also shows why it’s so vital that we don’t just leave the conversation about Auckland’s future to these influential and well connected groups.
Unsurprisingly the government’s budget a few weeks ago didn’t offer up much for transport however in the council finance committee meeting earlier that day one part caught my attention.
Despite consultation back in October we still haven’t heard anything from Auckland Transport or the NZTA on the outcome of the East West Link. We also know there’s been quite a bit of discussion about the Reeves Rd Flyover. Back in February AT said they were deferring the project seeing as it would just shift traffic one set of lights down the road and instead using the $170m saved to bring forward spending on the AMETI busway plus bus lanes up Pakuranga Rd. In the months that followed politicians such as Dick Quax became quite upset with this and then in April AT issued another statement saying that the board never agreed to the deferral but that it was just one of the options staff were considering. Note: AT subsequently sent me resolution that was agreed in the closed board session where this was discussed and indeed they only noted the potential change, not agreed to it.
Fast forward to now and Dick Quax is still going on about the flyover. The video below shows AT CEO David Warburton discussing the project with Dick Quax. It starts from about 5:40 in.
Warburton quite matter of factly tells Quax that the flyover won’t solve the problem on its own and that Waipuna and Carbine Rd would also need to be dealt with in order to have any impact – and even then I suspect it would probably just shift traffic to the motorway on-ramp and Gt South Rd intersection. That beeping sound you might be hearing about now is the bill being rung up at the council till.
That is unless the second part of Warburton’s comment is to be believed. He says AT are working with the NZTA to look at an overarching project that links in the East-West link that would see a road from SH20 all the way through to Pakuranga. The map below is just a wild guess but perhaps they’re thinking of something like it. It certainly contains some of the options that they’ve already shown.
Adding to all this is that I’ve heard a few times that East Auckland politicians as well as business groups have been lobbying the government quite hard to make the East West Link a State Highway managed by the NZTA. They know the NZTA has more money to spend than AT does and the government haven’t been afraid to throw more money state highway projects either. Getting the Reeves Rd Flyover and a few other intersections tacked on to the list doesn’t seem like it would be that much more of a stretch.
Of course even if these groups pushing the project are successful that doesn’t make it a good project. Trying to find ways to circumvent the council/AT will most likely mean that money that could have gone to higher value projects elsewhere in the city/country will be pushed back while a likely much lower value project goes ahead. Given Warburton said AT and the NZTA have already held a number of workshops perhaps AT should tell the public what they’re doing on the project as we still haven’t officially heard anything from the options consultation in October last year.
Auckland Transport’s board meet tomorrow and I’ve scoured the board reports for any interesting information. Here’s what caught my attention.
A detailed business case for the project is being worked on and will go to the board in April. AT still haven’t officially said which option they’ve chosen from their consultation back in October however this image – from a draft version of the RLTP (page 57) in the December Board meeting and which includes a note saying the map is not to be released to public prior to January 2015 – suggests it’s either option C or D.
South-Western Multi-Modal Airport Rapid Transit (SMART)
AT say work on the design of the Kirkbride interchange includes future proofing for either light or heavy rail. The RLTP notes that this future proofing is costing AT $30 million which seems extremely high considering the rest of the interchange costs $140 million. One reason it could be so high is I understand the the NZTA team working on the project didn’t originally include rail in their designs despite rail to the airport having been on plans for decades along with other parts of the NZTA working with AT on the route.
Wynyard Quarter – Integrated Road Programme
We should start seeing more roadworks in the Wynyard Quarter in April with AT expecting to issue a contract mid Feb. Works for stage one are Halsey Street South and Gaunt Street between Daldy and Halsey. I’m not quite sure just what changes we’re going to see yet though.
AT say they will feed back analysis of the submissions in March and I’ve heard rumours the current thinking greatly improved on what we saw earlier. An email update a few weeks ago suggested they were looking at whether parking between the trees could be retained in some situations.
AT say the new mall being built as part of the new town centre is due to open in October this year and that new bus services to the area (new network) are due in October 2016. Those bus services will also need an interchange constructed and AT are trying to work out just how they will do that. They say resource consent will be needed and almost certainly will be publicly notified for which any submission will delay the project. A temporary interchange is being planned
Work is still going on to update and amend the designation for Penlink and consent will be notified in early 2015 however a recent press release states that due to funding constraints, construction of Penlink is not anticipated until 2025. There are two open days about it, one this afternoon.
- Thursday 19 Feb, 2pm-7pm, The Peninsula Retirement Village (441 Whangaparapoa Road, Whangaparaoa)
- Saturday 21 Feb, 10am-2pm, Stillwater Boat Club (70 Duck Creek Road, Stillwater)
The demolition of the old foot bridge and piling for the new station happened over the Christmas shutdown and AT say the construction for the interchange itself will begin in June. It’s due to be completed in February 2016 at which time the New Network for South Auckland can finally be rolled out.
Consent is currently being sought for the enabling works for the interchange and AT are hoping to have the project completed in the first quarter of next year.
At the time of writing the report AT say there were 42 of the 57 trains in the country and 32 of them had provisional acceptance. They also say that services in December were affected by issues with the signalling system and there had been some door closing issues. The door issues were upgraded over the break but the signalling ones are still being worked on.
Newmarket Crossing (Sarawia St level Crossing)
AT have created three concept designs and have taken feedback from residents and Manu Whenua into them. AT are wanting to lodge resource consent for the project in February and in the past have said that this project is required before they can deliver 10 minute frequencies on the Western Line. Given the stage it’s at and that some of the residents of Cowie St are bound to go to the environment court over it, it could be years before we see any peak frequency improvements out west.
AT are planning to upgrade Puhinui station with most of the works completed in March and April and with a new canopy installed in June
Swanson Station Park and Ride
The extended park & ride is expected to be completed by the end of April.
Also to be completed by the end of April are the works to deliver the westbound transit lane and shared path.
One piece of good news is that parking officers are experiencing the lowest recorded volumes of aggression towards them and there have been no serious harm injuries since October
AT also say the removal of earlybird parking has meant lease revenue is ahead of forecast and in addition casual occupancy and revenue in the downtown carpark is increasing. The latter part is particularly good as it means the carpark is being used by more people throughout the day which was exactly one of the aims of removing the earlybird prices.
Taxi’s on Grafton Bridge
A 12 month trial allowing taxi’s on to Grafton Bridge will start in late March and AT will be monitoring bus travel times, cyclist safety and amenity along with how many infringements get issued. If any significant issues arise during the trial it can be stopped. AT say the Taxi Federation and Cycle Action Auckland have been involved in the development of the proposal.
Personally I don’t think AT should have even entertained the idea of allowing Taxi’s on the bridge and should have actually gone the other way and making it bus only 24/7.
Double Decker Bus Mitigation Project
To get double deckers on the streets AT need to complete a whole lot of mitigation works to ensure the buses don’t damage things or get damaged themselves. This includes moving power poles, veranda modifications, kerb build-outs and tree pruning. They plan to have this work done by June to enable double deckers from Howick and Eastern to start running. Mt Eden is the next route planned for mitigation works which is meant to happen in the next financial year however AT are awaiting the outcome of the LRT proposal before making any changes.
On the Howick and Eastern Double Deckers, a press release yesterday announced the company was spending $12 million on buying 15 double deckers – most of which would be built in Tauranga. They will operate between Botany and the City Centre. The most interesting aspect of these buses is that they will also include free WiFi, power points and USB ports. Those are great additions and hopefully something we start to see become standard on all PT vehicles and I certainly think they should be on our new trains. The buses are from Alexander Dennis – the same maker as the small NZ Bus buses.
In the third in my series of posts wrapping up the year I will look at what’s happened with roads this year.
Roads of National Significance
The RoNS have continued as they did last year with one notable exception.
Western Ring Route
The Western Ring Route works are in full flight now as will be evidenced to anyone who drives along SH16 with roadworks in place from east of Western Springs all the way through Northwest of Lincoln Rd from 5 separate projects.
- St Lukes Interchange
- Waterview Connection
- Causeway upgrade
- Te Atatu Interchange
- Lincoln Rd Interchange
The TBM working on the Waterview connection has broken through with the first tunnel and in December made a start on the second one. At the same time the most visible part of the project has been the large yellow gantry has been building towering ramps that will connect the tunnels to SH16 in each direction.
Over the next year we should finally see the Lincoln Rd section completed and I imagine significant progress on the other projects – although they are still a few years from completion.
Puhoi to Wellsford
In 2014 the NZTA were issued with consent to build the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway – a road even the NZTA’s analysis says is only really busy during holiday periods. Amazingly we’re still yet to see any real economic analysis for the project which is likely because it’s terrible based on the work we saw before the government named it a priority. The government of course continue to claim it’s all about the economic development of Northland despite the existing toll road – which saved more time than this motorway will – not making any difference.
Over 2015 we’re likely to see the NZTA working towards a PPP to get this project built however it’s not likely we’ll see any construction start.
Basin Reserve Flyover
Perhaps the biggest surprise of 2014 was the Board of Inquiry declining the NZTA’s application to build a flyover around the edge of the Basin Reserve. In the end the commissioners hearing the case concluded the impact on the local community from having a massive flyover was just too much after it was able to be shown that most of the benefits the NZTA claimed the road would provide were actually attributable to other projects. The decision was embarrassing for the NZTA and the government seeing as it was using the governments new fast track process which means the decision can only be appealed on points of law – which the NZTA are doing.
I’m not aware if a date has yet been set for the appeal but it is likely to be later next year.
Also in Wellington, the first transport PPP was signed in July for the construction and operation of Transmission Gully, another project with a horrific business case. Initial works should have started by now however won’t really ramp up till next year. The PPP will see the NZTA paying $125 million a year for 25 years once the project has been completed. Unlike many PPPs that failed overseas, for the consortium building the road there is little risk as all the demand risk sits with the NZTA, in other words we pay providing the road is open – and if it is damaged from a something like an earthquake we have to pay at least some of the costs of that too.
The other RoNS projects in the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Christchurch have continued along. I’m not sure of the progress of all of them however the Tauranga Eastern Link is meant to be completed in 2015.
Auckland Motorway Projects
In 2013 the government announced a series of additional motorway projects for Auckland. The widening of the Northern Motorway between Upper Harbour and Greville Dr has just been completed and in November started consultation on ideas for further changes to that section including a motorway to motorway interchange between SH1 and SH18. Some of the ideas are absolutely massive in scale such as concept 3.
Of the other projects, works to grade separate Kirkbride Rd moved ahead and earlier this month the NZTA announced the contract had been signed with construction starting in January
We haven’t heard much about the other accelerated project which will see the southern motorway from Manukau to Papakura widened but I would expect we will do in 2015.
In addition to the accelerated projects the NZTA has now made a start on widening SH1 Northbound between Ellerslie-Panmure Highway and Greenlane – a project that’s been on the cards for a while and for which the Ellerslie Station platform was narrowed a few years ago to accommodate.
Accelerated Regional Roads
In addition to the RoNS, and to shore up their support from some rural communities, this year the government announced a spend up of over $200 million on a number of regional state highway projects that can’t get funding due to it being sucked up by the RoNS. The Funding for these projects is coming from the proceeds of asset sales the government has undertaken. Some of the projects appear to be of low value however not all are.
Auckland Transport started the year with the opening of the new Panmure station and in November they opened Te Horeta Rd which is the new road running alongside the rail line and Panmure station from Mt Wellington Highway to Morrin Rd.
In October both AT and the NZTA launched consultation on ideas for the East West Link after calling off a proposal for a motorway through Mangere right at the beginning of the year. They haven’t announced the results yet but I’m fairly certain either option C or D has been picked as the option they are proceeding with.
In November AT announced they have come up with a route for the Mill Rd corridor and will be working towards securing a designation for it. The most disappointing aspect for me about the project – other than some of the case for it has likely been destroyed by the fast tracking of the SH1 widening – is that even with a brand new corridor, AT are still designing a crap outcome with features like unprotected cycle lanes or shared paths and pedestrian/cycle unfriendly roundabouts.
We’re still driving less
One positive trend I have started to notice is our transport institutions are starting to take notice of is that we’re driving less. In the last few months in particular it’s started to be mentioned in publications such as the Briefing to the Incoming Minister and in research papers.
What have I missed?
Responses from two of the country’s biggest transport lobby groups yesterday highlight what could probably be described as the business as usual approach to transport in NZ.
First we have the NZ Council for Infrastructure Development, the lobby group for those that build and finance infrastructure and who have never seen a project they didn’t like or one they didn’t think should be bigger and more expensive. Not content with having managed to get the East-West link moved to near the top of the queue are already calling for a second East-West link in the form of the destructive motorway from the Airport to East Tamaki.
“Transport agency proposals to address East-West traffic flows released for public consultation yesterday will help address urgent freight needs in the Penrose-Onehunga area in Auckland. But the long term solution must be one which connects Auckland’s commercial and industrial heartland in Penrose, Mt Wellington and East Tamaki and also caters for planned residential intensification and growth from the eastern suburbs to the airport,” says Stephen Selwood CEO of the New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development.
“In order for Aucklanders to provide worthwhile feedback on the proposals it is essential that they understand the full benefits and costs of each option and the long term strategic implications.
“The options proposed are concentrated on the Onehunga-Penrose catchment zone which, while still the largest in terms of employment, represents just one fifth of the $11 billion per annum generated across the industrial zones bordering the Manukau Harbour and Tamaki Estuary. Little information has been provided, to date, on the benefits, costs and strategic implications of the alternatives proposed.
“Connectivity to East Tamaki as well as further south to Mangere and on to the airport is not planned for improvement in these proposals, except through improved bus movement.
“How these areas will be connected into the future has great bearing on what the appropriate solution is for this first phase of investment.
“One option considered in earlier analysis included a motorway south of the Manukau Harbour. It provided long term connectivity not only between the industrial areas, but for all communities in the east of Auckland accessing employment and the airport.
“It was almost immediately terminated following public reaction, leaving a northern Manukau Harbour solution as the most politically acceptable. However, given that the proposals released yesterday provide no new east west connectivity for Glen Innes, Panmure, Howick, Pakuranga, Botany and the industrial areas of East Tamaki and Mt Wellington it is not clear how existing and projected growth demand in these areas will be addressed.
“Too often major projects in New Zealand are developed in a piecemeal fashion and modified and reduced to satisfy environmental and local interests without adequate consideration of strategic implications or the relative cost of lost accessibility and reduced economic efficiency.
“The East-West connection is a critical corridor linking not just the two busiest stretches of motorway in the country and three of the largest employment zones, it is a strategic link on the national highway network providing long term resilience and capacity for all road users crossing the city from east to west.
“It is critical that this project is seen as a strategic east west link for Auckland. That means providing adequate capacity to and through Auckland’s industrial heartland and supporting network connectivity region-wide,” Selwood says.
There are some really pull your hair out type comments in this statement.
Firstly it’s clear the NZCID are now trying to paint the East-West link as some kind of temporary fix up despite some of the options (like Option E) basically amounting a $1 billion+ motorway along the foreshore of the Mangere Inlet. There’s nothing temporary or short term about it.
It also ignores that the East-West Link has long been seen about improving access on the northern side of the harbour because as the NZCID point out, that’s where the largest portion of businesses and therefore freight movements are. Also let’s not forget the project has long been sold as being needed to improve freight movements.
Perhaps because the current proposals better deal with freight movements they are also trying to shift the argument back to having the motorway option by talking about the residents of the eastern suburbs. In doing so they basically suggest that the ability of Eastern suburbs residents to drive to the airport should come ahead of the liveability and communities of residents who live in Mangere.
The horrific Option 4 the NZCID want back on the options table
If they were really concerned about how Eastern suburbs residents and about providing them better connectivity then a quicker, cheaper an much less destructive option would be something like we’ve outlined in the Congestion Free Network. Two busways running at high all day frequencies connecting East Auckland with the rest of the region enhances connectivity not just for trips to the airport but for a wide range of other activities too. Some may say that Eastern suburbs residents won’t catch a bus but it’s worth remembering that people have said the same thing about North Shore residents yet the busway has been spectacularly successful.
Of course the NZCID won’t like the idea because it only costs a fraction of what a motorway does.
The other lobby group making news is the Road Transport Forum (RTF) in response to the suggestions from the NZTA’s Cycling Safety Panel that it be mandated for vehicles to give cyclists at least 1.5m of space when passing. Ken Shirley the CEO of the RTF has been rubbishing the suggestion and in doing so said:
“There’s a dual responsibility, the cyclist also has to be more aware of the impact of the impact they might have on vehicles, whether it’s a car or a truck because that can be very severe”
Yep because cyclists can really do some damage to a 40 tonne truck or having to slow down for 10 seconds is just such a horrific concept.
“One of the problems is blind spots on trucks and cyclists unaware of those blind spots and there’s a lot of technology that’s new to the market with infra-red and radar up the side of the truck giving an audio and visual warning to the the driver that in fact there might be a cyclist sitting in the blind spot”
Of course as soon as anyone suggests making technology like this a requirement Shirley is the first to jump up and down complaining about it.
“Too many cyclists don’t appreciate how vulnerable they really are,”
Cyclists are vulnerable primarily because of how other road users act and even the most safety conscious cyclist has sometimes been involved in tragic crashes.
“I think they’re a bit light on actual cycle education – we see some outrageous behaviour from cyclists – and a lack of appreciation of the blind spot, particularly with heavy vehicles.”
Nothing like the good old tar all people on bikes with the same brush.
Auckland Transport and the NZTA have announced another series of open days to discuss the East West Link. This time though they are presenting six options for what may be built which range from upgrades of local roads to potentially mega expensive new roads.
Community feedback is being sought on options identified by the NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport to improve transport connections in the Onehunga – Penrose area and reliability of bus services between Māngere, Ōtāhuhu and Sylvia Park.
The Transport Agency’s spokesperson Brett Gliddon says the planned improvements are important to deliver a transport network that can continue to support the growing movement of people and goods.
“The East West Connections area is the engine room of New Zealand’s industrial and manufacturing economy and home to a number of our most vibrant communities. These improvements are needed to ensure that both the nation’s supply chains and the local transport network function effectively.”
“Public feedback to date has supported the need to address congestion and delays in the Onehunga-Penrose area, as well as improving bus services.
“No decision has been made about any of the options, and our first priority is to get feedback from the community before the project is developed further,” says Mr Gliddon.
The proposed options identify roading improvements and new cycle links on the north side of the Māngere inlet, along with some bus priority lanes between Māngere, Ōtāhuhu and Sylvia Park.
Auckland Transport’s Key Strategic Initiatives Project Director, Theunis Van Schalkwyk, says creating bus priority between Māngere, Ōtāhuhu and Sylvia Park will make bus journeys faster and more reliable.
“This is a key part of delivering a Frequent Network for public transport in the area and creates a better connection for people getting to work,” he says.
The options being considered for the Onehunga – Penrose area range from upgrading existing routes, through to new connections between the Southwestern and Southern Motorways (State Highways 20 and 1). Common to all options is the improvement of public transport between Māngere, Ōtāhuhu and Sylvia Park as well as improvements to walking and cycling facilities, including the Waikaraka cycleway.
To help explain the options and get people’s feedback, the Transport Agency and Auckland Transport are planning a series of community open days this month which will be supported by workshops on specific topics.
“We had great feedback from the community in July and August and we want this to continue with the options now being proposed. We will be using the next round of feedback to further develop and investigate the options in order to assist us in identifying the best option to progress to detailed design,” Mr Gliddon says.
Open days will be held at the following locations:
- Saturday 11 October: Onehunga Primary School Hall, 122 Arthur Street, Onehunga (10am-1pm)
- Thursday 16 October: Otahuhu College Sports Pavilion, 53 Mangere Road, Ōtāhuhu (opposite Otahuhu College) (3:30pm -7:30pm)
- Sunday 19 October: Te Papapa Squash Club, Fergusson Park, Olea Road, Onehunga (1pm – 4pm)
There will also be a number of workshops on specific topics for people who would like to provide more detailed feedback. To find out more about the workshops go to www.nzta.govt.nz/east-west and email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
For more information on the options and to submit feedback, please visit the Transport Agency and Auckland Transport websites.
The East West Connections programme is one of four accelerated projects in Auckland identified by the Government to help ease congestion, support economic growth and improve safety.
In addition to East West Connections, the other projects relate to improvements on the Northern and Southern Motorways (SH1), and at the SH20A/Kirkbride Road intersection.
The key part are the options though. As mentioned above, regardless of what roading options are built all options will include upgrading the PT route between Mangere and Sylvia Park which is one of the routes confirmed in the New Network for South Auckland. They say this will entail
- Provision of bus lanes along sections of the public transport route (for example Mt Wellington Highway, Walmsley Road, Massey Road)
- Potential to have bus priority at intersections
- Review of bus stop locations along the route
- Potential to improve waling and cycling facilities along the road
It’s great to see the PT route getting attention, the only possible concern is that in their bid to come across as being multi-modal are they putting a lot of money into this bus route at the expense of others in the area that might have higher needs for bus priority.
Onto the road options. One thing that immediately stood out for me was that every single option involved the NZTA further widening SH20 between Neilson St and Queenstown Rd. The motorway here was only just widened to three lanes each way as part of the Manukau Harbour Crossing project so how wide does the motorway here really have to be.
This is simply an upgrade of the existing roads with some localised widening and intersection upgrades. It seems like a good place to start by having the existing route optimised before embarking on some of the more expensive options below.
This takes Option A by adding a set of south facing ramps going from Church St to SH1 with additional lanes on the motorway through to Princes St. This has the benefit of taking pressure off Gt South Rd and the Mt Wellington interchange.
This is quite different to the above two options. Going from West to East it adds a new connection between Onehunga Harbour Rd and Galway St which presumably takes pressure off the Onehunga Mall/Neilson St intersection. The big change here though is a new road from Angle St through to Gt South Rd along with an upgrade of Sylvia Park Rd and new south facing ramps onto a widened motorway. I get the feeling that this or Option D is the preferred solution.
This takes option C and adds an upgrade to the Glouscester Park interchange. The problem with this is the NZTA’s predecessors tried to upgrade this interchange as part of the Manukau Harbour Crossing project but were rejected consent to do so due to the damage to what remains of the volcanic cone
This seems by far the worst of the options and involves building a road all the way along the foreshore which would likely have significant environmental impacts. At the eastern end the road plows through some commercial, likely on a flyover before joining SH1.
I get the impression that perhaps the road planners/engineers see this the next step after building Option C/D. That means it’s likely that if one of those options are chosen then not long after we’ll see calls from trucking companies for this section to be completed too.
There are some good aspects to most of these but also some horrific ones like the suggestion of blocking off the whole Northern edge of the Mangere Inlet.
One of the huge advantages to Option A in particular is it would allow AT to get some improvements into the area quickly and see the impact they have while it refines the options to see if they improve. Personally I think Option B is the best option for the time being but in saying that there are some good sections from some of the other options, for example the connection between Onehunga Harbour Rd and Galway St.
Overall these options are a vast improvement on some of the earlier ones, some of which would have seen many homes demolished to make way for motorway from the Airport to the eastern suburbs.
If you live in the area (or even if you don’t) I’d suggest popping along and giving your thoughts.
Another series of consultation events that will happen this week will be for the East West Link and the replacement of the Old Mangere Bridge.
Communities will get the chance to have their say about two significant transport projects in their area – the East West Connections and the replacement of the of the old Mangere bridge.
The NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport say there is an open invitation for people to attend three community days planned for later this month. Two of them – at the Onehunga night market (Thursday 24 July, 6pm-10pm) and at Sylvia Park shopping mall near the foodcourt (Sunday 27 July, 10am-1pm) – focus on the East West Connections project. The third – at Waterfront Road Reserve, Mangere Bridge (Saturday 26 July, 10am-4pm) – will focus on both the East West Connections and the next stage of replacing the old Mangere bridge.
The Transport Agency’s acting Highways Manager, Steve Mutton, says the community days deliver on earlier commitments from the Agency and Auckland Transport to work with local people.
“We want to build on the great feedback we’ve had from people to replace the bridge and carry that on into the East West Connections programme. This is the latest step for us to ensure that we fully understand what people are experiencing when travelling in Onehunga, Mt Wellington, Otahuhu, Penrose, Mangere and East Tamaki,” Mr Mutton says.
Community input will help the Transport Agency and Auckland Transport develop their East West Connections programme to improve commuter and freight links, public transport and walking and cycling options over the next 30 years.
“We have already identified freight issues that need immediate attention in Onehunga-Penrose – that’s a key priority given the area’s importance for jobs and the Auckland and New Zealand economies. We will be working with stakeholders and the community in coming months as investigations progress for those improvements.
“But we are not losing sight of the issues people are facing in the wider area. The vibrant communities in the area are likely to experience a growth in the number of people who chose to live and work in them. The predicted growth will put additional pressure on the existing transport network”
“We’ve already identified the need to improve reliability of public transport between Mangere and Sylvia Park – there will be other areas for improvement. We want the conversation with local people now so that as we progress with improvements in Onehunga-Penrose, we can also continue to work with communities to address their issues,” says Mr Mutton.
The community day at Mangere Bridge on 26 July will also be a chance for people to see the proposed design for the new bridge connecting Onehunga and Mangere Bridge.
“The earlier feedback from the community was a catalyst for the project and guided the bridge design,” Mr Mutton says. “We’ve worked hard to integrate the community’s requests, and we’re optimistic that they will be pleased with our design when they see it.”
Some features of the original bridge will be retained, with the new structure curving towards the motorway bridge. It will be high enough for small boats to pass underneath. A wider span also means that some form of opening for larger craft is not precluded in future. Two artists have been commissioned to incorporate the area’s history and values into the design through art.
“Replacing the old bridge and the East West Connections are two very different projects with one similar outcome – helping the Transport Agency and Auckland Transport get the best solutions to improve the area’s transport network. We want to hear the views of people to help achieve that,” Mr Mutton says.
On the East West Link it will be interesting to see if they actually show what they plan to do for the project or if they will just talk about the need for it. This is especially the case as I know they showed business and road lobby groups exactly what they plan to build about 7 months ago.
We can get a bit of a background as to what they will show from some of the information on the AT website including this image which highlights all the issues they’ve identified in the area.
For a big click the photo or for the original it’s from here (5MB).
This image (on the NZTA website) shows all of the projects going on in the area.
As for the Old Mangere Bridge Replacement this newsletter shows a couple of impressions of what it may look like.
The decision made on the East-West link a few months ago not to run a motorway through the suburbs of Mangere was a significant victory for the community. However it also made a lot of sense as the majority of the transport problems are on the northern side of the harbour. Subsequently AT have also effectively ruled out any options that involve creating a new bridge between Mt Wellington and Highbrook. My understanding is the current plan is a variation of option two and would see a new road created along the foreshore from roughly Captain Springs Rd through to Silvia Park Rd (which would be upgraded) and have direct south facing motorway links added. This is shown below with the new sections in blue and the upgraded section in red.
Overall I think this is the right outcome for the project as it does enhance connectivity while making better use of existing infrastructure (the motorway and Highbrook Dr) while also likely costing significantly less than some of the other plans originally proposed. A case of probably getting 80% of the benefits for what may be 20% of the cost.
Immediately after the decision I heard there was quite a bit of anger from the road and business lobby groups who wanted a full motorway. The press release from the Auckland Chamber of Commerce (who I believe had been shown the plans along with other business/road lobby groups) contained a little bit of that anger calling the proposal only a partial solution. Their “other key requirements” would see the road turned into a full motorway between Onehunga and Highbrook. Also notice the use of the term RoNS to try and make the project sound more important.
“Auckland needs a full solution with an efficient and safe new road between SH1 and SH20 that eliminates traffic lights and intersections for trucks, avoids community severance and has a minimal impact on the industrial zoned land in the area,” said Auckland Business Forum chairman Michael Mr Barnett
“A partial solution is not acceptable. Given the national significance to the economy of the activity in the area, funding concerns should not restrict the design, consenting and construction by NZTA in an urban RONS basket.
“We need a complete solution presented covering freight as well as cars and buses and which can be consented and built by 2021 or earlier.”
This is in line with Prime Minister John Key’s confirmation last June that resolving the transport problems in this part of Auckland will be the Government’s next major focus for the Auckland transport network.
Other key requirements include:
- At the western end – an upgraded Gloucester Park interchange with SH20 at Onehunga to eliminate heavy trucks having to enter the Onehunga retail area and local streets – Neilson, Onehunga Mall and nearby rail overbridge, Selwyn St, and Gloucester Rd;
- At the eastern end – a full road interchange with SH1 adjacent to Mt Wellington that provides efficient, safe on-off south and north facing ramps;
- Efficient connections to freight transport and distribution businesses located in the Southdown area, including along Great South Rd towards Penrose and Otahuhu;
- Supports an east-west bus service and safe cycleway that is separate from heavy road traffic.
- Protects the need to connect to AMETI and Highbrook, either as part of the project or in the future.
“To meet these requirements we suggest the best solution to date is a new road built along the northern shoreline of Manukau Harbour and which then cuts inland to link with the Southern motorway. This option avoids community severance and taking up valuable industrial land in a business growth area of Auckland that needs more land not less.”
It’s worth remembering some of the business community were also behind the suggestion of an 8-lane horror show which included over 4km of tunnels.
So Auckland Transport made the correct decision and scaled the project down to what it should have been in the first case. Case closed right? Well it appears the business/road lobby aren’t going to give up that easy. This is an email sent to a number of people last week following on from an East-West Link discussion held by the Penrose Business Association. If you read the invite you will see they are also referring to pushing the option above.
Yesterday’s PBA’s “East West Link” meeting held at Turners Car Auction was very successful and well attended by an excellent cross section of business’s located between Onehunga and Highbrook including representatives from Road Transport, AA, EMA and the Auckland Chamber of Commerce.
As we move forward from this meeting the Penrose Business Association is keen to arrange a bus trip to explain at first hand to senior politicians and officers from both central and local government as well as business the range of roading opportunities that should be considered as we work towards finding the best solution to service one of the most important economic engine rooms in New Zealand.
It is only when you have the opportunity to visit these sites that you understand the scale of the transport operation that exists within our community which is largely out of site.
The transport companies shift some 15,000 cars from the Port of Auckland to Penrose each month, 4 container trains that depart MetroPort bound for Tauranga each day (currently down to two trains because of a locomotive shortage) and its only then that you realise how important a highly efficient transport system is and if done correctly brings significant savings for all of New Zealand.
To determine the interest level for the site visit please advise by return email if you wish to join the proposed bus trip which we propose to operate within the next 5 weeks.
I guess the point is that with this project in particular we’re going to continue to see a sustained push to make it larger and larger. Although in some ways this next suggestion might fall into that basket too.
A new Inland Port
You may recall this post where I looked at the East-West link and how it seemed to be primarily benefiting the Port of Tauranga through their Metroport operation. This suggestion looks at how the East-West Link could also help the Ports of Auckland.
When looking at the land around the area on Google Maps you may have noticed a large area covered in cars. This is shown in Green in the image below and the land happens to be owned by the Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL). This is important because as you may know POAL currently run an inland port in Wiri however I understand that site is leased from Kiwirail and is smaller than what exists at Onehunga.
On the Northern side of the harbour much of the foreshore has already been reclaimed except for one section just to the east of the POAL land. With the East-West link going through this area along the foreshore and in a fairly straight line it would leave that section in yellow that hasn’t been reclaimed as a bit of an oddity. That raises the question of whether we could make use of it. Well there might just be a decent use for that area if it was reclaimed, most likely at the same time as the road was built.
In addition to above, it would be quite useful for the rail network (in black) if we also grade separated the Westfield Junction, thus reducing one potential point of conflict on the network. At the same time as building the East-West link we could do that rail grade separation and perhaps more interestingly we could use that reclaimed section of land to provide a direct connection to POALs land (shown in Purple). That direction connection could allow POAL to shift their inland port operations to their own land, thereby reducing their operating costs and allowing them to compete better with the Port of Tauranga. Alternatively they could operate both. The new land could also provide a additional storage space in its own right.
The impact of such an idea could be quite large. With more capacity and a direct link it would allow POAL to shift a lot more freight by rail which helps reduce the number of trucks on our roads. Let me know what you think of the idea.