2016 – A Year in Review Part 3 – Roads

This is Part 3 of our series wrapping up the year and in this post I’m looking at Roads. You can also see:

Here’s my summary

ATAP

The Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) has been a huge feature of the year and while not strictly road related, I’ll include it in this summary. Importantly, despite I think asking many of the wrong questions and focusing too much on the modelling, it largely came out with the right answers. For example, it highlights

  • We can’t build out of way of congestion
  • A major expansion of the “strategic public transport network” is required
  • Auckland’s motorway network is basically now finished (and also that scope for further widening seems quite limited)
  • The Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing really isn’t needed for a long time
  • We need to move to a comprehensive, better pricing system – which ATAP calls “smarter transport pricing”. It suggests it could take a decade to work though the details before it became a reality.

Below is the proposed strategic road network for the next 30 years. As you can see most of this is already in place now.

Waterview/Western Ring Route

Near the end of 2015 the tunnelling was completed at Waterview over the course of 2016 the work has focused on fitting those tunnels out and completing all of the other aspects of the project, including the ventilation buildings and mitigation projects.

In September we revealed the NZTA had some new traffic modelling predicting the opening of the new connection to create havoc and that they were planning to emergency widen a number of surrounding motorways and local roads in a desperate bid to stop the shiny new centrepiece of their system from getting congested.

The tunnels are due to open in April, which is later than I thought it would be but I also wonder if that’s related to getting the emergency widening completed first.

In May the NZTA officially opened rebuilt Lincoln Rd and Te Atatu Rd interchanges as part of the wider Western Ring Route (WRR) project. Both were over budget and Lincoln Rd was three years later than originally stated (and that was even after moving one leg of the interchange to another project). In October the NZTA also celebrated the completion of the St Lukes interchange, with the Pohutukawa still intact.

In July work started on the next stage of the WRR, to widen the motorway between Lincoln Rd and Westgate. A section of motorway that might need to be rebuilt again in just a few years to add a north-western busway – something the government agreed (through ATAP) that was needed within a decade. We have heard rumours though that the NZTA engineers are changing their designs for the Royal Rd and Huhuhuru Rd bridges to accommodate a busway after they were told they might be responsible for delivering it.

Northern Corridor

Related to the WRR, just a few weeks ago the NZTA applied for consent for the Northern Corridor which will turn the section of SH18 east of Albany Hwy into a full motorway and provide a direct connection to SH1 (northbound). Importantly it also includes the extension of the Northern Busway. That process will be concluded in 2017 and previous indications from the NZTA suggested construction would start in 2018.

East-West Link

The East-West Link loomed larger in 2016 as the project marched on, culminating in the NZTA applying for consent a few weeks ago, at the same time as the Northern Corridor. The NZTA is almost certainly going to face a much bigger fight to get this project over the line though as it also faces significant community opposition, especially to plans to effectively cut off the port area with a motorway and swallow large packets of land for various roads

In June we revealed documents from the NZTA showing the cost had ballooned from $600 million to potentially over $1.8 billion, more expensive than the Waterview Tunnels ($1.4b). Yet from what we can tell the economic assessment is still based on earlier cost estimates. The documents also revealed some of main risks identified for the consenting of the project, with designs at the time putting the roads completely on newly reclaimed land.

Some of those risks have been mitigated a bit over the year as the latest plans place the road mostly back on current land with most of the reclamation planned to be for more extensive mitigation.

Puhoi to Warkworth

While on the topic of big State Highway Projects, the NZTA announced in November they had awarded the contract for the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway. Presumably construction will start in 2017 and is expected to be completed in 2022.

Auckland Transport consents for Mega Projects

Auckland Transport got consent for two of it’s mega road projects, both expected to cost north of $300 million.

Mill Rd

Penlink

They’ve also applied for consent for the Lincoln Rd upgrade which could cost more than $100 million.

Surprisingly little has been heard about AMETI this year. AT were meant to be applying for consent for the Busway between Panmure and Pakuranga but nothing has been made public yet.

 

Speed limits

In November the government announced a new speed limit guide which when in place would allow for some specific roads to have a 110km/h speed limit but also make it easier for local authorities to have lower speed limits in urban areas which would be welcome.

Road Toll

And despite the talk of safety, the road toll continues to defy the trends of the last few decades, increasing again over the last few years, as the graph below shows (to the end of October)

Are there any key changes I’ve missed?

Tomorrow’s wrap up will focus mainly on non transport stuff.

Lincoln to Westgate Motorway Widening Underway

On Friday while we were basking in the glow of the opening of another great cycling project, the government were busy turning the sod of the next motorway widening project to get underway, something with decidedly less fanfare – to the point there hasn’t even been a press release about it. This was for the Lincoln Rd to Westgate section of SH16 with the most prominent thing I’ve seen being this tweet from Prime Minister John Key

The NZTA also published this video which includes Transport Minister Simon Bridges praising the project.

As mentioned, this $100 million project is widening SH16 between Lincoln Rd and Westgate includes: adding more motorway lanes, some bus lanes, a cycleway as well as upgrading the Royal Rd interchange. Some of the work was originally meant to have been done as part of that the over budget Lincoln Rd interchange project.

Lincoln Rd to Westgate Motorway Widening Map

While there are a few useful things coming as part of the project, like all non-motorway features, they generally appear to be half arsed and incomplete. This includes:

  • The cycleway will be a useful addition, mainly because it will be at a nicer grade than the local road alternatives. I currently ride through this area when going to/from work on the North Shore and the local network options drop below the motorway before rising up above it creating some very steep streets to navigate. But while the cycleway will be useful, the NZTA will force cyclists off at Royal Rd interchange, up a steep section of Makora Rd and through the intersection with Royal Rd. Given the grades, a simple underpass of the off-ramp seems like it should have been easy as well as presenting an easier grade for cyclists.

Makora Rd Steepness

  • Bus shoulder lanes are being added to the motorway. While this is definitely an improvement it’s not the dedicated NW Busway that we need and buses heading further west will be forced to merge out of the bus lane at the Royal Rd interchange. That means to get a proper busway in the future we’re going to have to go back and widen the motorway further, likely taking homes and probably rebuilding the cycleway again when it could have all be integrated at the same time. I recall that back when the NZTA were consenting Waterview and the causeway, they used the excuse that the former ARC plans didn’t list that section of SH16 as a rapid transit route as to why they weren’t including a busway. But those same plans did list Henderson to Constellation via the motorway as a future RTN route as one so it seems the NZTA pick and choose which of the plans it listens too.

Busway schematic

There’s another feature of this project the NZTA have not said a single word about, that they’re taking 7547m² of land from a local reserve under the public works act plus another 1666m² as an easement for access, all of which is hidden under the brief bullet point above of Stormwater treatment. Information on the NZTA’s plans for Lowtherhurst Reserve are detailed in the agenda to the Henderson-Massey Local board at the beginning of April and the land they want for a stormwater pond is shown below in pink. The land in question is also what can be seen in the background of the video above.

The reserve is almost 44,000m² but most of that is steep and covered in bush. Only about 14,500m² is flat and grassed so the NZTA want to take half of that. I know somewhat well as I ride through it as part of my commute.

Lincoln to Westgate - Lowthehurst Reserve Land

The NZTA offered the council/local board one of two options:

A. base option is financial compensation for the land only. Boundary fenced off from the reserve

B. the development and use of a wetland walkway and multi-activity use area for the local community with Auckland Council maintaining the footpath and multi-activity area at an ongoing cost of $500 a year (this will be cost neutral as there is a cost saving of $555 from reduced mowing on the reserve resulting from the divestment of land).

More detail on each of them is provided in the report but the minutes show the local board supported selling the land and chose option B. They’ve also requested the money received by the council for the sale of the land go to other open space priorities in the local board area.

According to the NZTA website, the project is due to be finished in February 2019.