Auckland Transport are about to publicly notify the Northern section of the massive Redoubt Rd-Mill Rd Corridor project. This section of the corridor was estimated two years ago to cost up to $374 million and the recent draft 2015-18 Long Term Plan documents suggest the entire project all the way to Drury will cost around $800 million over the next 30 years. That’s a lot of money but seems unsurprising once you realise that AT are basically planning a mini motorway along the route. The road is said to be needed to cater for all of the greenfield growth that is expected to occur in the area.
AT are holding public open days tomorrow and Saturday about the project.
- 17 April 2015 – Westfield Manukau (centre court), 11am to 2pm.
- 8 April 2015 – Westfield Manukau (centre curt), 10am to 1pm.
They have however already published online the information they will be presenting to the public. Overall the main reason given for the project is to cater for up to 24,000 new dwellings and 6,000 jobs in and around the corridor as well as address the safety issues with the existing road that roads. They say that in the four years to 2013 there 293 crashes, four of which have sadly been fatal.
These are what AT say the features of the project are:
- Redoubt Road widened to two lanes in each direction between State Highway One and Murphys Road
- Westbound bus lane along Hollyford Drive and Redoubt Road towards Manukau
- On road cycle lanes on both sides and an off road cycle and foot path for the length of the upgrade
- Replacement of the existing Mill Road with a new arterial with two lanes in each direction between Murphys Road and Popes Road
- Murphys Road widened to two lanes in each direction between Flat Bush School Road and Redoubt Road
- Murphys/Redoubt Road intersection realigned and traffic lights added to improve safety
- 17m and 23m high viaducts at Puhinui Creek gully and South Mill Road gully above native bush
- Widened footpaths on both sides of Redoubt, Mill and Murphys roads with pedestrian crossings at key intersections
- Replacement planting and stream restoration
- Improved stormwater facilities, including new wetlands areas
- Landscaping of the new road corridor.
I haven’t had a chance to go through the documents yet however I have had a look at the images provided and what I see scares me. It scares me because while the road may already exist, this project is more like starting from scratch as involves significant property purchase and widening. Yet despite that widening AT still appears to be short changing some modes along the route – in particular cycling. The examples below show the cross sections of parts along the route and you can see in places cycle lanes as narrow as 1.5m and with what appears to be only a narrow painted median to separate them from the traffic.
In my view, if we’re going to the trouble of buying houses to widen the road then we should be building worlds best practice right from the get go. And here are some impressions of what the completed roads will look like.
So what happens to the buses, they have to force their way back into traffic?
Motorway to Totara Park
Totara Park (Hilltop Road)
How many people are going to be brave enough to use that cycle lane sandwiched between lanes of traffic. Would you let your kids cycle on that?
Murphys Road/Murphys Bush
Without protection those cycle lanes will see vehicles veer into the lane to save precious fractions of seconds by not having to slow down a little bit – much like a truck did to me a few days ago almost knocking me off my bike.
Totara Park to north of Ranfurly Road
That roundabout looks horrific for anyone not in a car. How is a child or someone who can’t run fast meant to cross the two lanes of traffic on either side of the road.
North of Ranfurly Road to Alfriston School
Overall there are some improvements from what we traditionally see in at least there are some cycle lanes but in the end they seem so poor it’s more like they are to tick a box rather than being a serious part of the design. It’s clear even the designers don’t think their creation is safe as the length of the road they’ve also created a shared path on one side “for less confident cyclists”. If they were creating cycle lanes like have on Beach Rd (but on both sides of the road) then cyclists of all abilities would feel safe in them.
To make things worse it’s not just the road design that’s causing concern as locals are also worried about the proposed massive viaduct over bush
I’ll try to have a look into the NoR documents in the next few days but so far this project is expensive and seems to repeat many of the mistakes of the past. Come on AT, you can do better and if you wouldn’t let your kids ride on it alone then you’re not doing your job properly
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?
The big news that the Council will be pushing back its preferred start date for the main part of the City Rail Link was not a huge surprise – aside from the enabling works the project’s probably not practically ready to start so quickly, even if funding support was available from Central Government (which it’s not). However, this is hardly a “win” on any account, as reduced spending on CRL in the next few years doesn’t free up money for other projects – as we stressed last month. This is because CRL doesn’t have an impact on rates until it opens, and it apparently is the level of rates income that constrains the transport budget.
So what does the rest of the transport budget look like? Looking at the details, the result is quite a mess, particularly during the first five years. This will become a core part of the big LTP question around whether the public wants a much larger transport programme and if so, how we’d prefer to pay for it (rates & fuel tax increases or a motorway toll). Hidden away at page 252 and 253 of the November Budget Committee agenda (27MB PDF) is the 10 year transport programme (although this is from before yesterday’s decision to delay the CRL):
This reflects the list of projects “above the line” in Auckland Transport’s ranking of all projects and reflect’s what’s possible in the “Basic Transport Network”. I don’t have a huge concern about the project list itself, although there are a few pretty low value things in there like Mill Road. The issue is more about the timing and sequencing of the programme – especially in the first few years.
You’ll see a number of important projects in there that are based around supporting the new public transport network that Auckland Transport are implementing over the next few years. Projects like the Otahuhu, Te Atatu and Manukau interchanges. Or the necessary improvements to Wellesley Street so it can cope with becoming the main east-west bus route across the city centre. The big problem is that these projects don’t appear to be funded until 2021 or in some cases (like Wellesley Street) even later:
This is a pretty insane situation, especially for projects like the Otahuhu interchange which is utterly fundamental to any implementation of the new PT network in the south. AT have started on the project but it seems they only have enough money for early works and design. The other big issue is the walking and cycling programme – which appears to be the line item “W+C Programme Risk Management”, that doesn’t have any funding at all for the first five years of the budget period.
The numbers at the bottom of the table above tell a rather strange and difficult to understand story about the total amount of funding available for transport over each of the next 10 years, jumping all over the place from a low of $453 million in the 15/16 year up to a whopping $978 million in 20/21 before dropping back down again significantly. The CRL numbers will change a bit, but remember not the rest of the programme.
But even within the funding envelope available, it seems that Auckland Transport has made some strange decisions around the timing of projects. Why is Albany Highway such an extremely high priority that it sucks up nearly $40 million in the first couple of years? Why is there no funding for AMETI, then one year of funding, then no funding again? Some of the project costs raise questions too – how does a Te Atatu bus interchange cost $46 million? How can a Wynyard interchange cost $25 million and a Downtown one $24 million when a Learning Quarter interchange only costs $8 million? Should we really be spending $171 million on the Reeves Road flyover?
There seems to be an expectation that the “Basic Transport Network” is just an academic exercise, with the public supposedly hugely in favour of the motorway tolls scheme (or higher rates and fuel taxes) that will “save the day”. I’m a bit sceptical about this – the government has not greeted the tolls scheme warmly and the public seem to be screaming even about the proposed 3.5% rates increase. We could very well be stuck with the Basic Transport Network for the foreseeable future, which means it needs a hell of a lot of work to ensure the new public transport network doesn’t fail, to ensure momentum on the walking and cycling programme is not lost and to finally make some tough decisions around whether we should be spending $143 million on Mill Road, $171 million on the Reeves Road flyover or $135 million on the East West Connections project.
The currently proposed budget is just a sticky mess that seems almost designed to fail.
While it emerged the other day that AT are looking to cut back on rail to the airport due to it’s cost, a day later they announce they are seeking a designation for a $300 million mini highway through currently rural south Auckland. The need for the road is claimed to be the huge amount of greenfield development expected to occur in the area in the next few decades.
A route has been identified for the upgrade of the Redoubt and Mill Road corridor, which is needed to support large housing growth in the area.
Traffic is predicted to double on the route in 10 to 15 years due to the growth. More than 22,000 new homes are proposed for the area, about 10,000 are in special housing areas that are likely to be fast-tracked.
Auckland Transport has identified the route for the upgrade of the Redoubt Road-Mill Road corridor and applied to Auckland Council to designate land (Notices of Requirement) for the project.
The council is expected to publicly notify the Notices of Requirement (NoR) for the designation in early 2015, with a hearing before independent commissioners to follow.
Auckland Transport Project Director Theunis van Schalkwyk says the project is driven by significant growth planned for the area and to improve the roads’ poor safety record.
“Congestion is already affecting Redoubt Road and Mill Road. The large number of new houses leads to traffic doubling in 10 to 15 years, meaning the road won’t cope without a major upgrade.
“Between 2009 and 2013 there were 283 crashes, including four deaths, with a number of accident hotspots on curves and junctions. The upgrade will improve the alignment to the safety standard required on an arterial route.
“With growth happening quickly in the area we need to give certainty to both existing and future property owners what land is needed for the upgrade. New housing areas can then be built knowing where the transport infrastructure to support it will be.
Mr van Schalkwyk says a number of route options have been investigated, consulted upon and evaluated before the final route was confirmed, with an independent environmental assessment a key factor.
The assessment recommended a number of mitigation measures to minimise impacts.
The route includes 23m high viaducts at Puhinui Creek gully and a 17m high viaduct at South Mill Road gully above native bush to minimise impacts. The project also includes about 30,000 sqm of native planting, stream restoration, wetlands created, pest eradication and environmental monitoring during and after construction.
Auckland Transport has contacted affected property owners directly about the project and is meeting with them to discuss their land owner rights and the planning process. The upgrade will need future purchase of 54 full properties and 257 partial properties, for example part of a driveway or frontages.
- Redoubt Road widened to two lanes in each direction between State Highway One and Murphys Road
- Westbound bus lane along Hollyford Drive and Redoubt Road towards Manukau.
- On road cycle lanes on both sides and an off road cycle and foot path for the length of the upgrade.
- Replacement of the existing Mill Road with a new arterial with two lanes in each direction between Murphys Road and Popes Road.
- Murphys Road widened to two lanes in each direction between Flat Bush School Road and Redoubt Road.
- Murphys/Redoubt Road intersection realigned and traffic lights added to improve safety.
- 17m and 23m high viaducts at Puhinui Creek gully and South Mill Road gully above native bush.
- Widened footpaths on both sides of Redoubt, Mill and Murphys roads with pedestrian crossings at key intersections.
- Replacement planting and stream restoration.
- Improved stormwater facilities, including wetlands areas.
- Landscaping of the new road corridor.
Here’s a video of the route.
This is a massive project that has an almost mini motorway feel to it and it highlights just how much greenfield growth is possibly going to occur in the area. We regularly get told by those pushing for more greenfield growth that developers cover the cost of new infrastructure however this project is a great example that this is simply incorrect. In reality they only pay for some localised infrastructure and it’s left to tax/ratepayers have to pick up the tab for mega projects like this.
On to the project itself and the designs they’ve come up with are hugely disappointing and show either AT, the designers or both are still stuck in a time warp. Despite the fact that they’re basically building a brand new road, facilities for those not in a car are extremely substandard. For example to cater for walking and cycling it is proposed to build both on road cycle lanes that vary in width between 1.5 and 2m, and a shared path. Instead AT should be moving straight to proper protected cycle lanes with the footpaths left to those walking. Of course the biggest problem with that is it would mean they might have to cut into the 3m of space being set aside for a median and hell would have to freeze over before they even considered such a change. Making the cycle lanes sage is going to be really important as this mini motorway looks like it’s only going to encourage people to speed.
Here’s a few examples of what they’re proposing for the road (click to enlarge).
Redoubt Rd/Murphys Rd Intersection
As you can see massive 4 lane road proposed which splays out to even more lanes at the intersection of Murphys Rd.
Mill Rd/Alfriston Rd
A big multi-lane roundabout, ugh. That won’t be fun for people in a car or on a bike.
And some of the cross sections
Overall this project seems like it’s straight out of the bad old days and was previously said to be needed to help ease pressure on the motorway. However now we know the government are about to widen the southern motorway in the area increasing its capacity which likely reduces the need for such a massive upgrade.
As part of the discussion on Alternative Transport Funding, which was launched yesterday, the Council also released a copy of Auckland Transport’s entire 30 year transport programme which includes the cost of projects and seemingly ranked according to some combination of criteria. The programme unfortunately does not include state highway projects, which makes it difficult to fully assess the merits of the overall transport packages outlined in yesterday’s announcements. However, it’s certainly clear what Auckland Transport projects can and cannot be afforded over the next 30 years under the two scenarios.
The document doesn’t explain the list in any detail, but it seems as though there are a number of projects on the first page which have some form of existing commitment or are ongoing requirements and therefore are not really considered “discretionary”. These are shown below:
The ‘committed’ projects include those that appear to have contracts in place (electric trains, Albany Highway, a few things around Westgate), renewing existing assets and the City Rail Link. I actually wonder if it would be helpful for CRL to be ranked against all the other projects – rather than be included in this “other” list – as almost certainly it would rank either right at the top or very near it.
Anyway, moving on to the top of the list the projects listed below are those that are in both the Basic Network and the Auckland Plan Network – as well as some fairly broad brush allocation of funding to support sprawl in some of the areas identified by the Unitary Plan:
It’s a pretty short list for the 30 year transport programme, as well as being strangely focused on the first decade. The other key thing to notice here is the yellow boxes, which appear to be wrapped up programmes of projects (e.g. walking and cycling) where the amount of funding allocated to the programme varies quite significantly, depending on whether it’s the Auckland Plan Transport Network or the Basic Transport Network.
Even taking a fairly harsh look at the list above, there doesn’t seem to be too many projects that don’t make sense doing at all over the next 30 years. For me the three most glaring ones that need to be questioned are:
- The Reeves Rd flyover at $141 million
- The widening of the almost $200 million and soon to be opened Te Horeta Rd for another $74 million
- Mill Road at $472 million which is something that we’ve highlighted could be looked at for a cheaper option, especially seeing as the government are now widening the southern motorway.
The rest of the projects are those which form part of the Auckland Plan Transport Network only. Essentially, these are the additional projects from Auckland Transport which the additional funding is being asked to pay for:
While there are a few really dumb projects on the list above (Mt Albert Park & Ride, what the heck?) there’s also a lot of pretty good stuff that is missing out under the Basic Transport Network. Furthermore, while there is some, it seems at first glance that there isn’t a huge amount of really expensive dumb stuff in the programme list of Auckland Transport’s projects. That contrasts with the package of state highway projects highlighted yesterday which doesn’t appear to have been questioned at all.
Over the next few days I’ll be starting to look into the detail at the overall balance of the packages, as well as assessing the extent to which they are similar to what we proposed in the Congestion Free Network.
A fairly significant proposed roading project, from Redoubt Road in Manukau down to Mill Road in Takanini, has pretty much slipped by unnoticed as its investigation continues – although some elements of the project seem to be causing quite a bit of angst with the locals. This in the NZ Herald today:
Hundreds of homes are in the firing line of a new arterial road for South Auckland – of which the first section alone is costed at almost $250 million.
Auckland Transport says about 260 properties, many of them along Redoubt Rd above Manukau, are in the path of the first stage of what it ultimately envisages as a 32km eastern bypass of the Southern Motorway to Drury.
The council organisation revealed last night a cost estimate of $246 million for the 9.2km section from Manukau and Flat Bush to Alfriston east of Manurewa, parallel with Mill Rd – including $66 million for property purchases – although it has yet to hazard a price for the full project.
Only $82 million is allocated for the next 10 years, and the project could take twice that time to complete.
But it intends seeking a route designation for the first section from the council’s planners by the end of next month, and says it is powerless to stop landowners from building new homes until then.
The plan has horrified residents of the historic Redoubt Ridge, through which Auckland Transport intends carving a road corridor up to 30m wide, past a remodelled junction with a widened Murphys Rd running from Flat Bush.
At a high level there seems to be some logic in the project – providing an eastern alternative to the Southern Motorway, as shown in the Auckland Plan transport project map:However, as always a lot comes down to the details of project like these – particularly in terms of what kind of corridor upgrade we’re going to get for the massive quarter of a billion dollars proposed. Checking out the proposed cross-sections on Auckland Transport’s website I can’t say I’m particularly impressed as what’s proposed looks like a defacto motorway with no provision for public transport, rather than a true multi-modal corridor which will support high quality development around it in the future. For example:A proposed cross-section of Murphys Road, which connects the corridor with Flat Bush, is even more bizarre:What on earth is the point of wasting 8.2 metres of road width with a giant median strip? It’s not like this road is going to be upgraded to four lanes each way at some point in the future utilising the median strip (at least I hope not). The impact of the road on the bush in this section is highlighted in the Herald article as one area that’s annoying the locals:
Redoubt Rd resident Raewyn Roberts, spokeswoman for an action committee to fight the proposal, yesterday called on Auckland Transport to avoid destroying what remained of a valuable ecological corridor from Murphys Bush to Totara Park and beyond.
Ms Roberts points to the design of the project as a “massive dual carriageway”:
“It’s appalling,” she said. “This is a mega, mega project – they have this massive dual carriageway which will come roaring up from the old Manukau City centre, wipe out the ridge, then sweep down Mill Rd.”
While a certain amount of “moaning locals” seems inevitable with most transport projects I think what’s horrifying people most of all in terms of this project is the vast over-design we’re seeing. A southern motorway bypass needs to be effective at shifting quite a lot of traffic, yes, but whether it needs to be designed for 80 kph average speeds (which is what the design looks like) with enormously wide medians is quite another matter. I think a scaled back project would not only be more likely to gain public acceptance, but it might also cost a hell of a lot less than the $250 million the current monstrosity is budgeted to cost.