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.

Applying for Motorways

A few days before Christmas and the NZTA have been busy little beavers, lodging not one but two consent applications for major Auckland projects last week. the Northern Corridor and the East-West Link (despite the council asking them to hold off for just a few more months). With thousands of pages worth of reports in each of the applications plus their supporting documents, perhaps the NZTA were targeting those looking for something to do over the Christmas/New Year period. Due to the volume of information I’m not going into much detail about each of these but you can be sure we will in the new year.

The Northern Corridor is expected to cost around $500 million and is described on the EPA website as comprising of:

  • SH1 widened to include extra general traffic lanes in each direction between Upper Harbour Highway (Constellation) and Greville Road;
  • A new dual direction busway adjacent to the southbound carriageway shoulder of SH1;
  • Northern Busway extended from Constellation Bus Station, further north to Albany Bus Station;
  • A new off-road shared-use pedestrian/cycleway adjacent to the southbound carriageway of the Northern busway extension;
  • SH18 upgraded to full motorway standard from the Albany Highway interchange to SH1, with a motorway to motorway connection to SH1 (north facing SH1 – SH18 ramps only);
  • Direct connection of Paul Matthew Road to Upper Harbour Highway;
  • Local road intersection improvements; and
  • A new off-road shared-use pedestrian/cycle way initially tracking from Albany Highway along SH18 and up the length of SH1 to Oteha Valley Road.

Unlike the East-West Link further below, there isn’t much in the way of images for the Northern Corridor showing what it will look like. The images do show a couple of important things though, such as that the Constellation Busway Station will get an outbound platform accessed by an over bridge, like Smales Farm and Akoranga. As you can see the Rosedale drawing doesn’t include details about the proposed busway station as mentioned the other day.

While this one shows the proposed bridge that will give direct access from the busway to the Albany Busway station.

Here’s the plan version of that

The East-West is now expected to cost up to $1.8 billion, about three times what it was originally expected to cost. It is described on the EPA website as comprising of:

  • A new four lane arterial road between SH20 at the Neilson Street Interchange in Onehunga and the on and off-ramps on SH1 at Mt Wellington Highway;
  • SH1 widened in each direction between Mt Wellington Highway and Princes Street to increase capacity to allow connection to the Project. Several bridges will either be upgraded or widened to facilitate this;
  • Major upgrades to the Neilson Street Interchange to enable direct access between SH20 and EWL through free flow ramp connections in all directions;
  • A full pedestrian and cycling link between Māngere Bridge and Onehunga through to Sylvia Park Town Centre;
  • Local road improvements at Galway Street, Captain Springs Road, Hugo Johnston Drive and a new access road for the existing ports; and A grade separated intersection of Great South Road and Sylvia Park Roads to provide improved reliability and future resilience.
  • Landscape and recontour the coastal edge of Māngere Inlet to reflect the original foreshore which existed before extensive historic reclamation; and
  • Incorporate stormwater treatment wetlands located within new headlands on the foreshore of the Māngere Inlet.

 

Below are some images of what the East-West Link is meant to look like when finished.

This is the proposal for the Onehunga Interchange looking North and South. Notice in each of them how they show rail in the plan, which is now planned to go over the top of some roads. The also show the replacement walking and cycling bridge which the NZTA have gone very quiet on.

And here’s a shot showing the new road alongside the Mangere Inlet.

The map below shows the entire East-West plan which also includes widening of SH1 and upgrading the Princes St interchange. Click the image for a larger version or go here for the original (8.2MB)

This is a close up of the Onehunga Interchange.

As mentioned we’ll go into more detail about these posts in the new year, in the meantime, let me know if you see anything interesting in the technical documents

Northern Corridor moving ahead

Auckland has no shortage of big road projects on the go at the moment but one of them that has at least improved a bit over the last few years has been the Northern Corridor Improvements project. This plans to convert the last remaining part of SH18 to full motorway standard with some direct motorway to motorway ramps to the north along with extra lanes. The improvement has come in the form of the NZTA now confirming that an extension of the Northern Busway will be part of the project. This a significant change as it had been specifically excluded by the government when the project was accelerated by the government in 2013 – which we understand was against the advice of the NZTA at the time.

The NZTA say the next stage of the project has now been approved which means they’ll be working towards getting consents before starting construction in 2018. As part of this they’ve now come out with an “Approved Draft Plan” which they say includes:

  • A new direct motorway to motorway connection between SH18 and SH1, separating motorway traffic from local road traffic.
  • Additional motorway lanes in both directions on the Northern Motorway (SH1) between Greville Road and Constellation Drive.
  • Extension of the Northern Busway from Constellation Bus Station to Albany Bus Station. Auckland Transport is investigating a new bus station along the extension in the Rosedale area.
  • A 5km dedicated shared walking and cycling path on the eastern side of the Northern Motorway (SH1), built alongside the new Busway extension and alongside Upper Harbour Highway (SH18) all the way to Albany Highway. A proposed new walking and cycling bridge across SH1 in Albany will connect Pinehill and East Coast Bays residents with Albany’s shopping, employment and university areas.
  • Local road improvements through the Constellation Drive and Caribbean Drive intersections, and a new Paul Matthews Road bridge.
  • Further investigation of a proposed bridge over SH18 to improve connections for the Unsworth Heights community

 

Here is the latest plan which also includes a few changes from the last time we saw the project almost a year ago. The main changes I can see compared to then are:

  • They’ve now clarified the connections around Paul Matthews Rd
  • They’ve dropped a big swooping on-ramp providing a direct connection from Albany Expressway to the motorway southbound.
  • Previously buses would use the bridge at McClymonts Rd to access the busway station before looping back to the motorway via Oteha Valley Rd. Now a new busway bridge will be built directly across the motorway to the station.
  • They’ve dropped a potential walking and cycling underpass from SH18 and seem to plan to include a connection as part of a new bridge extending Unsworth Dr
  • Previously there was a ‘potential path still under investigation’ showing along SH18 including west of Albany Highway. They’ve confirmed the walking and cycling path as far as Albany Highway but not west of there. This is a shame as the motorway has a much nicer grade than using Upper Harbour Highway

Northern Corridor - June-16 Design

 

On the busway they say in more detail

It’s now confirmed that the project will include an extension of the popular Northern Busway from Constellation Bus Station to Albany Bus Station. This means buses will be able to travel on a dedicated busway all the way to Albany, reducing travel times and improving public transport options. Auckland Transport is also investigating a new bus station and Park & Ride options in Rosedale along the new busway extension. As part of this, Auckland Transport will look at local road improvements and additional feeder services that could help transport people in and out of the station from the East Coast Bays, North Harbour, and Rosedale. Similar to Smales Farm, it is expected that this station will be a destination station for the many people who work, go to schools or attend sporting activities in the area. It will also provide another station to catch the Northern Express service to and from the city

Northern Corridor - June-16 Busway

As part of this final step before going to consenting they are giving people another chance to have a say on the project. Unfortunately, this post is too late for any of the open days but you can still email them or fill in their survey which is focused on a few specific issues like urban design, the new busway station, walking and cycling options and some other local road changes like the potential Unsworth Rd Bridge.

I’d like to see is the busway built first as it would have an added benefit of giving people options during the inevitable disruption that will occur during the construction of the motorway.

One aspect that the NZTA hasn’t talked about since the project was announced is the cost. Back then it was estimated at $450 million but that was without the busway.

Northern Corridor Improvements Consultation

A few weeks ago we learned that an extension to the Northern Busway was back on the cards following the last round of consultation on what the NZTA call the Northern Corridor Improvements Project. This main part of this project involves turning the section of SH18 east of Albany Highway into a full motorway and giving it a motorway to motorway connection to SH1 plus upgrading the Greville Rd interchange. Extending the busway is critically important and I hope it could be built at least at the same time as the other works, if not in advance of them. What I wanted to look at with this post are some of the other changes proposed.

The first thing that strikes me is that if the NZTA and AT actually built all of the components mentioned at about the same time then this project could actually end up being one of the more multi-modal projects in Auckland. This is significant as many projects claim to be multi-modal but most just put token efforts into improving the situation for PT and active modes.

The key part of the project will be the motorway works which will be the upgrading to SH18 and the interchange however as you can also see it involves adding extra lanes to this section of motorway pushing it to four way. Overall it seems like they’ve gone with concept 2 which is a vast improvement from concepts 3 and 4 which were shown back in November. For the busway they went with concept 1 of keeping it on the eastern side and only crossing over at McClymonts Rd. Given that they appear to be thinking of building a dedicated on-ramp from Albany Highway I thought they might have integrated the busway with that to get it to the Western side.

Northern Corridor - July Design

How the NZTA deal with the local roads in the area such as Paul Matthews Rd is still under consideration. They say there are two general options, a bridge with an underpass or an underpass with intersections. These are best shown in the image below.

Northern Corridor - July Design Local Road Conections

I like how they make the motorway to motorway ramps look small when in reality they’ll look a lot more like the monstrosities at Waterview towering over the local community. It will be interesting to see how the local community from about this.

Waterview Ramps - 3

Along with the busway extension one new feature that hasn’t been talked about much is the proposed walking and cycling which will go alongside the the busway.  The NZTA are also looking at a cycleway along SH18 at least as far as Albany Highway and CAA say that this is shown as a dotted line as it is currently falls outside the existing road designations. I also like that they highlight the plans for the rest of the local network although some of the “existing facilities” are probably a bit of a joke given what we’ve built in the past.

Given the NZTA say they are looking at is the potential for a new busway station in the Rosedale/Lower Albany area, some more improvements to the cycle facilities on surrounding roads such as Rosedale Rd could make this a popular station to bike to.

Northern Corridor - July Walking and Cycling

 

The NZTA are consulting the public on their latest set of plans and the first event is tomorrow. The dates and times are below.

  • Westfield Albany – Sat 5 Sept and Sun 6 Sept, centre court location, all day
  • Local businesses’ coffee drop in session – Tues 8 Sept, 7.30-8.30am, Café Noir, 7A Triton Drive, Rosedale
  • Local businesses’ coffee drop in session – Weds 9 Sept, 7.30-8.30am, North Shore Cosmopolitan Club, 65 Paul Matthews Road, Albany
  • Unsworth Heights community event – Fri 11 Sept, 2pm-6pm, Meadowood Community Centre, 55 Meadowood Drive.
  • North Harbour Business Association Expo – Thurs 17 Sept, QBE Stadium (stand 80)

Feedback this round of consultation closes on Friday 18 September.

Below is a different look at the busway extension. One area to submit on will be to push for this and the walking & cycling path to be completed ahead of the motorway works. That would then give people from north of Constellation an option to avoid any motorway congestion as a result of widening and interchange works while benefiting those already using the bus with a faster and more reliable journey.Northern Corridor - July Busway Extension