Another Road Only Harbour Crossing on the Cards?

The absence of rail as well as walking and cycling options to the North Shore has been considered an oversight by many probably ever since the Harbour Bridge was first approved for construction over 60 years ago. While Skypath will finally rectify the walking and cycling situation, many have looked to the prospect of an Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing (AWHC) to rectify the rail one.

Some papers I received from the NZTA at the end of last week as part of an official information act request suggest that those hoping for rail to be part of AWHC are likely to be out of luck again. They confirm the NZTA only plan to designate a road based crossing. This is in sharp contrast to how the NZTA have presented the project to the public to date which includes saying that the tunnels include provision for Rapid Transit and have pictures showing tunnels with both cars and trains in them – such as the one below and this one which is described as their current concept. Their plan is to have the tunnels become SH1 with the existing bridge acting as a sort of giant off ramp to the CBD.

AWHC - Indstry Briefing

In addition to the likely absence of rail from the project, the documents also suggest that:

  • the NZTA could look to cut the connection to Onewa Rd
  • they are waiting till after the route is protected before doing a detailed business case
  • along with some other public information suggest that the NZTA deliberately ignoring any additional works needed on either side of the harbour

There are five documents in total and are dated between November 2014 and May 2015. They were the result of asking for ‘All advice to senior management, the board or the Minister on the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing’

In November 2014 a paper to the NZTAs Senior Leadership Team makes this comment

The additional crossing has been identified as providing for both road and rail. Whilst the road network is mature in this area, there is currently no rail network on the North Shore. As a result Auckland Transport’s support for protecting the route for rail now is unclear. A high level discussion with AT is required to understand their aspirations.

On 10 February 2015 there is a short briefing to the Minister about the route protection process.

On 20 February 2015 there is a much more extensive briefing to the Minister after the minister obviously asked for more info. As part of a series of questions and answers the NZTA say:

The business case, which will be completed in 2017, will consider rapid transit options. Work on rapid transit options will be led by Auckland Transport. The preferred option will be secured through the route protection process.

It’s also from this brief that a small point about Shoal Bay is raised and that there are options to mitigate it.

Impacts on Shoal Bay: The Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing would generate significant impacts on Shoal Bay on the North Shore including those resulting from land reclamation. There are opportunities to mitigate these effects.

Just under a month later the Minister announced the NZTA would be moving ahead with the designation process and a few days later this memo was produced discussing the next steps. This is what they say about rail.

AWHC OIA - 2015-03-19 - Rail

They say a key decision is to ‘Agree with Auckland Transport the extent of rail involvement in the designation process.’

It is also from this document where they raise some of the other issues I mentioned including:

That they are considering holding off on the business case. Along with the rail comment above, deciding this is the other key decision that the memo says needs to be made.

AWHC OIA - 2015-03-19 - Route Protection and Business Case timing

That they are considering dropping the connection at Onewa.

AWHC OIA - 2015-03-19 - Esmonde Connection

Recently I’ve been hearing that extending the tunnel all the way to Esmonde to avoid reclamation in Shoal Bay is being progressed and that means anyone who accesses the motorway from Onewa Rd and wanting to go somewhere other than the CBD would have to drive north to Esmonde first then turn around and head down the tunnels. Alternatively they would have to go into the city and travel through city streets before re-joining the motorway.

The final document is a paper to the NZTA board in May 2015 discussing the route protection and other issues. In it they effectively confirm that the NZTA will not be including rail designations as part of its work and that instead it is up to Auckland Transport. They also note that the ‘lack of clarity’ around rail is the main risk to the route protection process.

AWHC OIA - 2015-05-08 - Rail

AWHC OIA - 2015-05-08 - Rail 3

Now obviously this doesn’t mean that rail isn’t going to happen as Auckland Transport could also look to protect a rail route at the same time but it seems fairly clear that the NZTA are fully prepared to designate for a road only crossing if AT don’t get on with a rapid transit option. That seems like a recipe for something going wrong due to miscommunication. We know AT have recently been conducting a study on the future of Rapid Transit to the North Shore but we haven’t even heard the outcome of that yet, let alone have the work needed for a notice of requirement completed to coincide with NZTA’s previously stated desire to start the NOR in the middle of this year.

All of the information also suggests that the NZTA intend on building road tunnels regardless with rail either at best happening concurrently or more likely never. There doesn’t appear to be any consideration a different staging of the project which could see a cheaper rail option built first and a road crossing considered if still needed in the future.

 

In addition this board paper notes the decision had been made to only do route protection at this time and leave the business case to later.

Next steps are tightly focused on route protection. The wider business case will be progressed as a subsequent piece of work, and subject to a separate funding application.

What is also worth noting from these documents is that appears the NZTA are treating business cases as only being used to inform when a project should start construction and what funding source it would have rather than whether it’s worth doing at all. That means the AWHC with a benefit cost ratio of 0.3 can (from an earlier study) is progressed because it passed the “do we like it” test.

There is also an interesting comment in the board minutes as a result of this paper. Included in the minutes it says ‘Board members discussed how to ensure the NoR process is contained tightly to matters relating to route protection only for the future crossing’. I’ve long understood that for the AWHC to function it will also need some significant widening of the motorway north of Esmonde Rd. It seems the NZTA want to keep discussion away from that.

One additional piece of information that was quite interesting from the 20-Feb paper was a little note on why the NZTA have picked the western alignment rather than going to the East of the city like the NZCID have suggested.

The eastern alignment was not progressed as it would have cost significantly more, including a $1 billion upgrade to Grafton Gully to accommodate additional traffic and improve connections into the central motorway junction. The eastern alignment would also have resulted in congestion on the Auckland Harbour Bridge and underuse of the new crossing.

AWHC - east or west alignment

An extra $1 billion just for Grafton Gully alone which presumably doesn’t include the extra cost of an even longer tunnel.

As I’ve said before, lets get the missing modes completed first before seeing if we need another road crossing. It might just be that a cheaper rail crossing has sufficient impact to delay a more expensive road crossing.

Reeves Rd Flyover back on the books

Auckland Transport has had an on-again/off-again type relationship with the $170 million Reeves Rd flyover in Pakuranga. Yesterday they announced it was definitely back on again and sees them running back to the idea that before we can build any PT or cycling infrastructure, we must first build a massive road as compensation.

reeves-rd-flyover

Work will begin soon on the design and consenting for the Reeves Road flyover and Pakuranga to Botany busway in east Auckland.

The projects are part of the Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI), which is aimed at giving residents of the eastern suburbs better transport choices.

AMETI will deliver rapid, high frequency public transport between Panmure, Pakuranga and Botany. Roading improvements at traffic bottlenecks in Panmure and Pakuranga allow the busway to operate reliably and help manage growing traffic volumes.

The start of design and consenting work follows a comprehensive review of the timing of future Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI) projects by Auckland Transport, the New Zealand Transport Agency and Auckland Council. It included more accurately modelling the traffic impacts and bus travel times on the main roads in the area.

The review concluded the best order for future AMETI projects to be built is:

  • Panmure to Pakuranga – busway, Panmure roundabout replacement, walking and cycling paths. AT recently lodged an application for consents for this stage, it is expected to be publicly notified by Auckland Council within the next few months.
  • Reeves Road flyover, Pakuranga town centre busway and bus station.
  • Pakuranga to Botany busway.

It also concluded that improvements may be needed on Pakuranga Road between Pakuranga and Highland Park to further improve bus journey times between Panmure and Howick.

Auckland Transport Group Manager Andrew Scoggins says this timing for construction will ensure journey times for both public transport and general traffic improve while the various stages are delivered.

“The Reeves Road flyover will not solve traffic congestion in the area. However it is highly effective at offering significant local congestion relief on the roads outside Pakuranga town centre. Shifting traffic off those roads allows the busway and cycle lanes to be built on them.

“Although the full busway could be opened first, the final evaluation of options showed it would create increased congestion for general traffic until the flyover is complete,” Mr Scoggins says.

The review also showed that the full busway between Panmure, Pakuranga and Botany, as well as the Reeves Road flyover, needs to be open by 2025 to minimise future increases in congestion. Current long term plan funding from Auckland Council would only allow for this full network by 2029.

It’s good to see them saying the busway needs to be completed all the way to Botany, and completed sooner than the current funding allows. As it is, AT have taken way too long just to lodge the consents for the busway from Panmure to Pakuranga – for which they currently don’t expect to start construction till 2021 going through to 2025. If they’re going to get the section from Pakuranga to Botany built within that timeframe too, then they’ll have to get cracking on designing the busway. Also welcome is the recognition that Pakuranga Rd needs to have bus lanes at least to Highand Park. I wonder if that’s a piece of work that could help congestion in the shorter term.

The same can’t be said for the flyover. The project has had quite an odd history. Back in February last year Auckland Transport surprised everyone by announcing that the $170 million flyover had been deferred, with the money they saved being used to advance the busway faster. One of the reasons they gave for this was that they realised, for the flyover to make any real difference, it would also require the grade separation of the intersections of the South Eastern Arterial with Waipuna Rd and Carbine Rd, effectively turning the route into a motorway. AT also cited the difficulties of consenting, which had only a few months prior seen the Basin Reserve flyover fail to get consent.

The deferring of the project led to politicians at both the national and local level, many of whom are not known for their support of PT projects, kicking off a frenzy of lobbying for the flyover to be built and built sooner. This included lobbying the government and NZTA to declare the road a State Highway, so it could get 100% NZTA funding.

Then a few months later in April, AT announced they’d made a mistake and that the board had never agreed to deferring the project and that deferring it was only one of a number of options. That meant the flyover was back on the table. This was definitely an odd turn of affairs. I will say that I later saw the board minutes from when the project was discussed, and that it’s correct that the board never approved deferring it but agreed to look into the options further.

That the project is now back on the agenda, and seemingly bring fast tracked, can most likely be put down as a win for political interference.

Reeves Rd Flyover

In an age where smart cities are rushing to tear down flyovers and replace them with better spaces for people, it’s absurd that we’re still trying to build one. At the very least they should be building the busway and seeing what actual impact it has before committing to this project.

Motorways interchanges completed late and over budget

On Friday Transport Minister Simon Bridges officially opened the Te Atatu and Lincoln Rd sections of the Western Ring Route.

Simon Bridges officially opening the two projects

Simon Bridges officially opening the two projects

The NZ Transport Agency says the official opening today of two upgrades to Auckland’s Northwestern Motorway kicks off a significant year in the city’s transport history.

The Lincoln Interchange and Te Atatu Interchange projects were officially opened by Transport Minister Simon Bridges at a ribbon cutting ceremony this morning.

They are the first of several improvement projects to be opened this year as part of the Government’s $2.4b Western Ring Route – designed to keep Auckland moving.

Both of these projects are crucial building blocks in the Western Ring Route, providing an additional route to State Highway 1 and the Harbour Bridge and changing the way people move around Auckland.

NZ Transport Agency Highways Manager Brett Gliddon says the improvements at Lincoln and Te Atatu are part of a series of projects being completed during the next year to ensure the Northwestern motorway is able to handle the growing demands from everyone who uses it – drivers, people using public transport and those who walk and cycle.

“Increasing the motorway from two to three lanes in each direction on this stretch of the motorway will help traffic to flow better leading to greater travel time reliability, and an efficient alternative route to use instead of State Highway 1,” says Mr Gliddon.

I was apparently invited to the opening but the NZTA sent the email to the wrong address – not that I would’ve been able to attend due to work commitments.

Regardless of what mode you use, for many out west the completion would be a welcome change as works and the disruption that came with it have been an ongoing challenge. But I wonder just how successful the project has been, especially the Lincoln Rd section. Here’s are some of the quick facts from the NZTA’s press release.

The $145million upgrade of the Lincoln Interchange has widened and realigned the onramps and motorway exits to improve safety and traffic flow. There are new dedicated, purpose built bus lanes providing a greater level of service than before. The Northwestern Cycleway has also been extended and improved.

The $65million Te Atatu Interchange project has added an extra lane in each direction between Te Atatu and Lincoln Roads, new motorway on and off-ramps as well as raising and widening the Te Atatu overbridge.

….

Work will begin later this year on the Lincoln to Westgate project to tie into this just completed work at the Lincoln Road Interchange. It will include widening the Northwestern motorway to three lanes, improved on and off ramps, creating bus lanes and extending the Northwestern Cycleway.

So let’s take a quick look back to when these two projects each began.

Lincoln Rd Interchange

The project started all the way back at the end of October 2010 and has seen the interchange vastly supersized, for example the bridge over the motorway was widened from two lanes to seven. At the start of the project the NZTA laid out these basic facts. The important ones for this post being that it would cost $100 million, be completed in 2013, include all four ramps and extend the cycleway as far as Huruhuru Road.

Lincoln Rd Key Features

Immediately you can see a few glaring issues, these being that the project is $45 million over budget and three years late. To be fair, I understand the timeframe was deliberately delayed so that funding could be diverted to help deal with the immediate aftermath of the Canterbury earthquakes, three years late? I can also accept the idea that they slowed construction so it could better be tied into the progress of the rest of the Western Ring Route. Not much point adding lanes and capacity only for it to hid the queue not far down the road. As infomercials love to say “but wait, there’s more”.

As I mentioned the works were to include all four ramps and extending the cycleway to Huruhuru Rd – via a torturous four leg crossing of Lincoln Rd, no underpass here. Here’s a map of the interchange design. I’ve rotated it to better compare with the following image.

Lincoln Rd Interchange details

Here’s what it looks like as of the beginning of April.

Lincoln Rd Interchange - April 2016 2

You can see very clearly that the westbound onramp and the extension of the cycleway past Lincoln Rd are completely missing. That’s because they’ve been moved in with the project widening the section of motorway from here to Westgate – another ~$100 million project.

So all up it appears we’ve got a project that is $45 million over budget, three years late and they still haven’t even completed some of the work they said they would do.

Te Atatu Interchange

Thankfully the Te Atatu interchange doesn’t appear to have the delays that the Lincoln interchange suffered, but it does appear to have had its own cost blowout. This is from the press release when the project got under way.

Key features of the $50m project include widening the Northwestern motorway between the Te Atatu Road and Patiki Road interchanges, widening all five ramps on the interchange, enhancing existing facilities for walkers and cyclists and widening and raising the Te Atatu Road overbridge.

….

Work will start on the improvements at Te Atatu in the new year and is set to be completed in 2016.

Here’s the Te Atatu interchange from April

Te Atatu Interchange - April 2016 2

So the project was completed in 2016 like they said it would be but was $15 million over budget.

Te Atatu Rd Underpass

The Te Atatu project includes the fantastic cycleway underpass

So all up we’ve got projects over budget, late and missing components. Perhaps not quite the NZTAs finest hour. Imagine what kind of amazing local cycling network that extra $60 million could have delivered if spent within the area.

It’s quite likely that within the next decade we’ll be seeing the heavy machinery out in these sections once again, this time adding the piece of the puzzle that was absurdly left out of this project, the Northwest Busway.

Submit on Transport Networks for Auckland’s Future Urban Areas

Today is the last day to submit on the consultation by Auckland Transport and the NZTA on what the call Transport for Future Urban Growth. Around two Hamilton’s worth of people/homes are expected to be added to Auckland’s fringes in the North, Northwest and South over the next 30 years as part of the council’s Future Urban Land Supply Strategy. To accommodate that there will need to be significant public investment all forms of infrastructure and the two transport agencies say they are trying to work out what high level transport infrastructure will be needed now so it can be used as part of their planning and funding processes.

If you haven’t already I’d suggest putting a submission in. At a high level my views

  1. It’s good that the networks generally have strong PT components in the three main areas of North, Northwest and South. The place shaping role of rapid transit is critical in these areas and early investment must go on rapid transit. If we don’t we’ll be encouraging these areas to develop in ways that make it much harder to retrofit good quality PT later and this new growth will be very auto-centric as a result.
  2. The roading networks are over the top and unnecessarily excessive. Peripheral areas are never going to have perfect transport conditions but it seems like the networks are aiming for that.

One thing this process does is highlight just how expensive greenfield development can be. Suggestions are that just these high level projects could cost around $8 billion all up or about $70,000 per dwelling and that doesn’t take into account the cost of local roads or other infrastructure that is needed to support development.

 

Below is a copy of my earlier post on the consultation (although the videos are new)

The websites for each of the three main areas also gives a little bit of information as to how they’ve responded to the feedback received and for each of the key areas there is also a more detailed map which is on the AT website. In all of the maps below the mode/intervention uses the same colour scheme, Red = Rail, Green = Bus, Blue = Road, Gold = Safety improvements.

South

In the south it’s good to see AT specifically mention electrification to Pukekohe as that was something no mention was made of in the earlier consultation. It’s something we can only hope gets the go ahead soon as it seems fairly critical to some of the other parts of the plan for the South including a bunch of new stations and better services. On the roads the massive Mill Rd corridor is set to march on all the way to Pukekohe. The biggest omission from compared to the first consultation seems to be an east-west route from Pukekohe to SH1.

In this transport network, a key focus is increasing access to public transport, with more capacity and a well-connected rapid transit network at its heart. This would include electric trains to Pukekohe, express trains, new stations and rapid transit links, for example between the airport, Manukau, Flat Bush and Botany and a high frequency bus route between Drury and Manukau.

The plan focuses on great access to jobs, town centres and recreation within south Auckland and links to the wider region.

Another key focus for the south would be an extension of the Mill Road corridor from Manukau to Papakura and Drury. This would help improve safety, provide improved access to new growth areas and provide an additional north-south route. Connected to the Mill Road corridor is a new route to Pukekohe to improve safety or reduce congestion on SH22. An interchange with SH1 will also be further investigated at Drury South.

We’ve also identified further work is needed on how better connections between Waikato and Auckland can be provided.

TFUG - Draft Preferred Plan - South

North

The North looks like a much bigger roads fest compared to the with almost all of the proposed roads from the earlier consultation included in this consultation. For PT the busway will be the heart of the system in the area and s being both physically extended by going to Grand Dr but also and with more stations too.

At the heart of the network is the extension of the rapid transit network (RTN) by linking Albany to Dairy Flat, Silverdale, Wainui and Grand Drive.

Additional stations along the RTN would become hubs for extended public transport services into the growth areas and Orewa, providing fast and efficient access to employment, town centres and residential areas.

Dedicated walking and cycling networks linking to public transport hubs would provide a range of options to get to work or for leisure. New and upgraded arterial roads running both eastwest and north-south would improve connections and safety through the area as well.

Capacity would also be increased on State Highway 1 (SH1). An interchange incorporating both Dairy Flat and Penlink will be investigated to see if it would alleviate access from bottlenecks at Silverdale further north.

TFUG - Draft Preferred Plan - North

Northwest

Like the others it appears that almost all of projects from the earlier consultation have made it through to this round. Perhaps the most interesting aspect is AT say they’ll do some more to look at the costs and benefits of extending rail to Huapai – although the website also suggests it could be compared to electric rail.

A key focus of the draft network is on providing high capacity public transport networks to move people efficiently and reliably between the places they want to go. This includes a rapid transport network (RTN) adjacent to the SH16 and SH18 to and from Kumeu, Westgate through to the city and the North Shore. Park and ride facilities are also identified to provide access to these services.

Further investigations are proposed on the extension of electric trains to Huapai to assess benefits and costs. Initial work shows a RTN along SH16 will have faster journey times and serve a wider catchment.

Another key focus is improving the safety and capacity of SH16 north of Westgate and the major arterials that intersect it. To help address congestion as the area grows and keep the Kumeu and Huapai centres as safe, local community-focused environments, an alternative through-route to SH16 is proposed.

A direct motorway to motorway connection between SH16 and SH18, improvements to Brigham Creek Road, and upgrade to the Coatesville-Riverhead Highway and arterial road networks in Whenuapai and Red Hills are also identified. The feasibility of a range of different types of interchanges at Northside Drive and Squadron Drive will also be investigated. Dedicated walking and cycling paths connecting to public transport and existing cycle routes also feature.

TFUG - Draft Preferred Plan - Northwest

Consultation closes at 4pm today.

Strong support for Seapath

The NZTA have advised that they had an excellent response on their first consultation about Seapath with more than 2,500 people responding which is pretty significant for a an early consultation. This will be in large part to the feedback form created by our friends at Generation Zero.

The NZTA say they’re still analysing the feedback but the key themes already include:

  • Strong support for a well-designed separated walking and cycling path with safe connections to local facilities.
  • Natural features should be recognised along with connections to the harbour for people to enjoy the coastal environment and views to the city.
  • The importance of safe, practical connections at either end of the path and along the route – in particular Akoranga Drive, Esmonde Road, Sylvan Ave, Onewa Road and Stafford Road.
  • The southern end of the path needs to provide a clear connection to the proposed SkyPath crossing, while the northern end needs a safe crossing and connection to onward routes.

Neither the level of support the project has or the issues raised are surprising. This will be a great project once combined with Skypath.

Seapath March-16 Route

Here’s the full press release.

The NZ Transport Agency says there’s been overwhelming support from the public for SeaPath, a proposed walking and cycling path between Takapuna and Northcote Point on Auckland’s North Shore.

SeaPath is a proposed 3km separated path largely on the western side of the Northern motorway. It will provide safe and direct connections to local communities, destinations and walking and cycling routes.

More than 2,500 feedback forms were received and approximately 108 people came to information sessions during a recent consultation process with the community.

All of the feedback and suggestions are now being analysed and a summary, along with the next steps, will be released later in the year.

Some of the key themes so far include:

  • Strong support for a well-designed separated walking and cycling path with safe connections to local facilities.
  • Natural features should be recognised along with connections to the harbour for people to enjoy the coastal environment and views to the city.
  • The importance of safe, practical connections at either end of the path and along the route – in particular Akoranga Drive, Esmonde Road, Sylvan Ave, Onewa Road and Stafford Road.
  • The southern end of the path needs to provide a clear connection to the proposed SkyPath crossing, while the northern end needs a safe crossing and connection to onward routes.

The NZ Transport Agency’s State Highways Manager, Brett Gliddon says the responses will help refine the future design.

“We’re very pleased with the amount of interest there has been on the proposed walking and cycling path, which will be an important link in Auckland’s wider walking and cycling network.”

“Getting more people on their bikes is a key priority for the Government through the NZ Transport Agency, to create more predictable journeys for all travellers as well as connecting people with a greater range of employment, education and social opportunities.”

“There’s a lot more work to be done and the feedback we now have will help us understand what areas need further investigation.”

The next steps for the project will be to review the feedback in detail and undertake further investigations on the alignment, working towards confirming the route and detailed design.

 

Congested Christchurch

Fresh from saying that there is no solution for congestion, the NZTA are now saying that people from the north of Christchurch should start carpooling to make things better.

Christchurch =- Morning congestion on Christchurch Northern-Motorway

Carpooling is the best option to help alleviate morning commuter congestion on Christchurch’s Northern Motorway according to the results of a new commuter survey.

Eighty percent of those surveyed indicated they would be open to the idea of carpooling or already carpool.

The NZ Transport Agency’s Southern Regional Director Jim Harland, who is leading the team working on short-term solutions to ease congestion, says there will always be peak-hour congestion on the Northern Motorway, even when the new Western Corridor and Northern Arterial are built, because of the continual growth in traffic volumes from the north.

“What everyone needs to do is start thinking about how they travel and consider using alternative transport options to their private car, such as carpooling, which provides more capacity on the network and more predictable journey times.

“Carpooling and public transport are all parts of the transport network and greater use of these will help reduce congestion.”

Those surveyed said they wanted incentives, such as carpooling lanes, to make carpooling easier.

My first thoughts when reading this were, why would anyone bother using PT with the transport situation in Christchurch as it stands currently. That’s because on the whole, people will make a rational choice based on what the options are. Unless you can’t drive or you’re prepared to sacrifice your commute so others can drive there is probably almost no reason to catch a bus. That’s because the buses are going to be caught in exactly the same congestion as everyone else and be slower once stops are taken into account, something those involved in the survey suspected.

Respondents’ perceived public transport as slower than driving and also inconvenient. Only 3% were regular bus users, compared with 90% who drove.

Mr Harland says motorists will continue to experience delays and frustrations if they do not change their travel behaviour, looking at alternative options and travelling at alternative times. 

Environment Canterbury public transport manager David Stenhouse said the northern motorway research provided an interesting insight into commuter behaviour.  “It’s great to get people thinking about how they travel and how their choices affect congestion.

“We’re improving the public transport services in the Waimakariri area to encourage more people to catch a bus to help ease congestion on the Northern Motorway. By catching the bus you can do your bit to reduce congestion.”

Waimakariri District Mayor David Ayers encourages North Canterbury road users to consider the options available for travelling into the city during peak hours.

“We still have very high numbers of vehicles, around 85%, with only one person in them travelling into Christchurch in the morning peak hour.

“If more people share their ride or catch a bus, even if it’s only one or two days a week, this will make a difference.”

It seems to me Christchurch really needs to be having a discussion about a future rapid transit network. It seems to be a glaring gap in discussion for the city and the experience from Auckland shows that if we want the people from in and around Christchurch to use PT to avoid congestion then it’s vital they have some high quality services that are realistic options. That means dedicated PT infrastructure so the PT doesn’t get stuck in traffic.

If only there was a transport corridor to the north that could be used to provide an alternative.

Christchurch Northern Rail

You may recall that the regional council along with the NZTA decided to look at a rail option a few years back but they ruled it out because it would cost $10 million, a tiny amount compared to what’s being spent on motorways. There was also a risk that a short term service might prove too popular and people would demand it stay and be improved. Of course if rail continues not to go ahead, as the image at the top of the page shows, there appears to be a huge median in some places along the motorway that could be better utilised.

NZTA on motorways solving congestion

Last week the NZTA posted this video on their YouTube channel as part of a series talking about motorway works in Christchurch.

Not sure I could have said it better myself.

A good highway upgrade

The government made two significant state highway announcements within a week. The first was the announcement of a new motorway in Tauranga which was followed last week by the announcement of a significant $278 million upgrade to the 32km of SH2 between Pokeno and Mangatarata. This project, like the Mangatawhiri Deviation completed in 2008, are examples of exactly the kind of projects I feel the government should have been focusing on for the last eight years instead of some of the massively expensive Roads of National Significance.

This project should significantly improve safety on what is one of the country’s most dangerous roads, so much so that in 2011 the NZTA even lowered the speed limit on all but the new Mangatawhiri deviation to 90km/h. According to the press release from Simon Bridges, there have been 18 fatal crashes causing 34 deaths in the last five years alone – although a quick look at the info on the NZTA website says there were 15 fatal crashes over 10 years (to 2014).

As part of this upgrade three new deviations will be built, west of Mangatawhiri, at Kopuku and at Maramarua. In addition, the road will be widened to three lanes with two of them westbound towards Auckland. They say the upgrades will be designed so that a future a fourth lane could be added if/when it’s needed. Presumably this means also widening the existing Mangatawhiri deviation which was designed with future widening in mind. The NZTA will also install other safety features such as wire rope median and side barriers.

SH2 Maramua Upgrade 1

I’ve written before about how the Mangatawhiri Deviation has been a huge success. Not only did it come in 6 months ahead of time and $2.9 million (6%) under budget. It had a significant impact on safety as this graphic shows.

Mangatawhiri Deviation Crash record

From memory this project – or at least a previous iteration of it – was meant to have been started some years ago but it was put on hold and funding for it was diverted while attention shifted to the RoNS and particularly the Waikato Expressway.

Below are the traffic volumes on the road over the last 20 years. As you can see volumes were relatively flat for much of the last 15 or so years but have picked up a little recently. The NZTA say that on some days with holiday traffic, volumes can top 25,000.

Mangatawhiri Traffic Volumes

The press release from the government is below.

The Government will invest $278 million to upgrade State Highway 2 between Pokeno and the SH25 intersection, Transport Minister Simon Bridges announced today.

Work will begin this year on the design, consents and property purchase for a long-term overhaul of the road that will be carried out in five stages over several years.

The 32 kilometre long stretch of road will be widened to three lanes, with two lanes for traffic heading west towards Auckland. The work will also be future-proofed, enabling the road to become four lanes if needed.

“These upgrades will help ease congestion and improve journey predictability, making a huge difference for the local community, the freight industry and for people travelling north after a weekend on the Coromandel,” Mr Bridges says.

Along with the extra lane, a new roundabout will be built and four interchanges separating state highway and local traffic will be constructed.

“Improving safety on this popular holiday route is a key part of this project. Over the last five years there have been 18 crashes resulting in 34 deaths and serious injuries.

“Evidence tells us the majority of crashes on this stretch of highway are either head-on or where the vehicle runs off the road so median barriers and guard rails will also be installed.

“The long term goal is to reduce death and serious injury crashes by 80 per cent over 20 years.

“We also want to provide safer choices for cyclists and ensure local people have safe access to their homes, schools and businesses,” Mr Bridges says.

Construction is expected to get underway in 2017/18.

I can’t help but think that had this approach been taken with the Puhoi to Warkworth RoNS, much of it could be in place by now and saving lives compared it being 2020 or later depending on when it finally starts construction. This is of course what was proposed with Operation Lifesaver.

 

Another Tauranga motorway approved

Tauranga continues to aspire to the title of mini-Auckland with an announcement from the government on Friday of $520 million for another motorway into the city, the 6.8km Tauranga Northern Link. The funding even includes a money set aside for a future extension of the to be built motorway a further 6km+ to Omokoroa.

Tauranga Northern Link Map

Transport Minister Simon Bridges today announced a $520 million roading package that will transform State Highway 2 (SH2) between Tauranga and Waihi.

The package includes:

  • The $286 million Tauranga Northern Link (TNL).
  • $85 million worth of safety improvements designed to reduce death and serious injury crashes.
  • Up to $150 million to provide for future traffic growth, paving the way for an upgrade between Omokoroa and Te Puna.

“This is a significant transport investment for Tauranga and the wider Bay of Plenty area. It will improve safety, reduce congestion and support growth on what is a very busy route, making a noticeable difference for motorists and easing freight movement,” Mr Bridges says.

“It is yet another example of the Government’s focus on increasing economic growth and improving safety through transport investment.

“We know that transport is an enabler of economic activity so we need to continue unlocking key congestion points to get people and freight moving efficiently around the country.”

The TNL is a new 6.8 km highway which will connect Tauranga’s Takitimu Drive Toll Road with SH2 Te Puna.

“The TNL is a long awaited project in the Tauranga community. Last week I attended a public meeting to hear the views of local people and it’s clear there’s a lot of support for getting this project underway.

“Once complete it will reduce traffic through the busy townships of Bethlehem and Te Puna, provide a better commute into the city, and support the Western Bay’s many industries.

“Today I’m also announcing that $150 million has been earmarked for a future extension of the TNL. A business case for extending the TNL from Te Puna to Omokoroa is expected to be completed toward the middle of next decade.

“All up this means the TNL will provide a four lane highway linking Tauranga’s Takitimu Drive Toll Road with SH2 at Omokoroa,” Mr Bridges says.

 

The project isn’t exactly new and a quick search finds it has been around in some form since the early 1990’s and was designated in 2001 so at least the project wasn’t just pulled out of thin air like the Puhoi to Warkworth project was. What surprised me the most about the announcement was the timing. I’ve seen discussion of the project before but it hasn’t been listed in various documents as happening at least within the next few years. It’s not even a project listed on the Bay of Plenty section of the NZTA website.

The daily traffic volumes at the western end of the project at Te Puna are shown below and the road is obviously busier once it gets closer to Tauranga – such as around Bethlehem. They’ve definitely taken a sharp upwards turn in recent years and given Tauranga’s plans to open up more development, especially around Omokoroa I suspect those volumes will increase.

Te Puna Traffic Volumes

While the announcement has been made now, the press release mentions construction won’t actually start till 2018 and the extension obviously some time later. As there’s already a designation the focus till then will be on design but it raises the question of why make such a public statement about it now? The funding for the as yet un-assessed extension also highlights the dramatic difference in playing field that exists with transport in NZ. Public transport, walking/cycling and even local road projects seem to have to jump through huge hoops to get funding but for state highways the cash is handed out without question.

The $436 million for those two bits of motorway can be added to some of the recently completed and currently under construction projects around Tauranga. This includes the $455 million Tauranga Eastern Link, the currently under construction $102 million to grade separate sections of SH2 through Bayfair and the $45 million to build an underpass at Maungatapu. There’s also the $62 million the NZTA recently spent to buy the failing Takitimu Dr (Route K) toll road off the Tauranga City Council.

The one aspect I do think is very good about the announcement is the significant amount of money going towards safety improvements between Te Puna and Waihi. One of the improvements already made a few years ago inspired me to write this post about how we need to see more focus on improving safety and so $85 million is likely to have significant benefits. The map below shows where the focus of that spending will be

Tauranga-Waihi SH2 Full Corridor Map

And this one focuses just on the Te Puna to Omokoroa section

Tauranga - Omokoroa to Te Puna Safety Improvements Map

Draft Preferred future urban networks

Yesterday we saw the feedback on the first consultation from the Transport for Urban Growth piece of work that AT/NZTA are currently undertaking. Now the next more detailed round of consultation has started and they’ve released their draft preferred transport networks. By in large the networks are very close to including most of what was initially consulted on. One thing that they haven’t given any indication on is what the timing will

The websites for each of the three main areas also gives a little bit of information as to how they’ve responded to the feedback received and for each of the key areas there is also a more detailed map which is on the AT website. In all of the maps below the mode/intervention uses the same colour scheme, Red = Rail, Green = Bus, Blue = Road, Gold = Safety improvements.

South

In the south it’s good to see AT specifically mention electrification to Pukekohe as that was something no mention was made of in the earlier consultation. It’s something we can only hope gets the go ahead soon as it seems fairly critical to some of the other parts of the plan for the South including a bunch of new stations and better services. On the roads the massive Mill Rd corridor is set to march on all the way to Pukekohe. The biggest omission from compared to the first consultation seems to be an east-west route from Pukekohe to SH1.

In this transport network, a key focus is increasing access to public transport, with more capacity and a well-connected rapid transit network at its heart. This would include electric trains to Pukekohe, express trains, new stations and rapid transit links, for example between the airport, Manukau, Flat Bush and Botany and a high frequency bus route between Drury and Manukau.

The plan focuses on great access to jobs, town centres and recreation within south Auckland and links to the wider region.

Another key focus for the south would be an extension of the Mill Road corridor from Manukau to Papakura and Drury. This would help improve safety, provide improved access to new growth areas and provide an additional north-south route. Connected to the Mill Road corridor is a new route to Pukekohe to improve safety or reduce congestion on SH22. An interchange with SH1 will also be further investigated at Drury South.

We’ve also identified further work is needed on how better connections between Waikato and Auckland can be provided.

TFUG - Draft Preferred Plan - South

North

The North looks like a much bigger roads fest compared to the with almost all of the proposed roads from the earlier consultation included in this consultation. For PT the busway will be the heart of the system in the area and s being both physically extended by going to Grand Dr but also and with more stations too.

At the heart of the network is the extension of the rapid transit network (RTN) by linking Albany to Dairy Flat, Silverdale, Wainui and Grand Drive.

Additional stations along the RTN would become hubs for extended public transport services into the growth areas and Orewa, providing fast and efficient access to employment, town centres and residential areas.

Dedicated walking and cycling networks linking to public transport hubs would provide a range of options to get to work or for leisure. New and upgraded arterial roads running both eastwest and north-south would improve connections and safety through the area as well.

Capacity would also be increased on State Highway 1 (SH1). An interchange incorporating both Dairy Flat and Penlink will be investigated to see if it would alleviate access from bottlenecks at Silverdale further north.

TFUG - Draft Preferred Plan - North

Northwest

Like the others it appears that almost all of projects from the earlier consultation have made it through to this round. Perhaps the most interesting aspect is AT say they’ll do some more to look at the costs and benefits of extending rail to Huapai – although the website also suggests it could be compared to electric rail.

A key focus of the draft network is on providing high capacity public transport networks to move people efficiently and reliably between the places they want to go. This includes a rapid transport network (RTN) adjacent to the SH16 and SH18 to and from Kumeu, Westgate through to the city and the North Shore. Park and ride facilities are also identified to provide access to these services.

Further investigations are proposed on the extension of electric trains to Huapai to assess benefits and costs. Initial work shows a RTN along SH16 will have faster journey times and serve a wider catchment.

Another key focus is improving the safety and capacity of SH16 north of Westgate and the major arterials that intersect it. To help address congestion as the area grows and keep the Kumeu and Huapai centres as safe, local community-focused environments, an alternative through-route to SH16 is proposed.

A direct motorway to motorway connection between SH16 and SH18, improvements to Brigham Creek Road, and upgrade to the Coatesville-Riverhead Highway and arterial road networks in Whenuapai and Red Hills are also identified. The feasibility of a range of different types of interchanges at Northside Drive and Squadron Drive will also be investigated. Dedicated walking and cycling paths connecting to public transport and existing cycle routes also feature.

TFUG - Draft Preferred Plan - Northwest