Hamilton Bypass to be Bypassed

The NZTA yesterday announced they’ve awarded a $1 billion contract to build another bypass of Hamilton and comes after they spent $200 million on the existing bypass at Te Rapa which opened three years ago. Construction won’t begin till next spring as the contract includes the detailed design work which will take place first.

A consortium of contractors and designers has been awarded a contract to build the biggest roading project to be undertaken in the Waikato, the NZ Transport Agency says.

The 21 kilometre long Hamilton section of the Waikato Expressway will be constructed by a group made up of Fletcher, Beca, Higgins and Coffey (FBHC), in an alliance with the Transport Agency.

The proposed design for the section includes five interchanges, 17 bridges and new connecting roads at Ruakura Road and Resolution Drive.

Waikato Expressway - Hamilton Bypass

As usual with these things there seems to be a fair amount of artistic licence that goes into the press releases. For example

The project is one of seven sections of the Waikato Expressway, a Road of National Significance (RoNS)identified by the Government as key to unlocking New Zealand’s potential for economic growth.

Once all seven sections are complete, the expressway is expected to cut travel times between Auckland and Tirau by up to 35 minutes and significantly improving safety.

So how much of that claimed 35 minute savings comes from this project and how much from the other sections that have already been completed or are under way? Including the time savings of other projects was one of the key criticisms of the NZTA by the board of inquiry that rejected the Basin Reserve Flyover in Wellington.


“The expressway connects inter-regional traffic with local destinations which is vital for the economy and for our vibrant communities. We have to get these things right and we can only do that if we partner up,” she says.

Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker says the project is important to growth and development in Hamilton and the wider Waikato region.

“We have been waiting in anticipation for completion of the Hamilton section of the expressway and it’s great to have this work now locked in,” she says.

“It is a fantastic project that will deliver considerable value to Hamilton’s economy and lifestyle.”

I’m not quite sure how a rural motorway out past the edge of town is going to do anything to make communities in Hamilton more vibrant and isn’t the point to allow traffic to bypass the city and get to or from Auckland faster. The project also isn’t likely to do much to the economy either. Even by 2041 some sections are still expected to have fewer than 10,000 vehicles per day using them – and that’s likely using the NZTAs often over-optimistic assumptions. Another way of putting that is it’s on par with what the old Kopu bridge carried back when it was a single lane bridge.


I suspect that if this section was assessed on it’s own it might be lucky to scrape above a BCR of 0.2

I wonder how liveable and vibrant Hamilton would be if $1 billion was spent on projects that more directly benefited locals?

A Seaward cycleway and a Saved Valley

There have been a couple of pieces of news out of Wellington in the last few days.

The first is that the NZTA have decided to build the pedestrian and cycle path between Petone and Ngauranga on the seaward side of the rail tracks – the other option was between the tracks and the road.

Wellington Petone to Ngauranga cycleway 1

The path will be 3m wide with a 1m shoulder on each side which is to allow space should there need to be maintenance on the rail network. It certainly looks better and will be a more pleasant experience than being squeezed between the road and the tracks. It will obviously require a lot of reclamation to occur along the waterfront and will be interesting to see how that goes with consenting. The NZTA say that as they haven’t finalised the plans yet it may be possible to design it so it could also provide an opportunity to straighten the rail tracks in the future.

Being flat it would be a nice easy ride and on a nice day it would be a fantastic way to arrive into the city from the north – although probably not much fun if a strong southerly was blowing.

Connections on either side of the route are currently being funded as part of the Government’s Urban cycleway fund to the tune of $19 million however this middle section falls outside of that funding. The total project is expected to cost about $54 so that would put this part with reclamation at $35 million an isn’t expected to start till 2019 financial year.

An interesting aspect to the project is that it isn’t just about creating a cycleway but also about improving the reliance of the road and rail networks beside it. This should help prevent a repeat of what happened in 2013 when a large chunk of the rail formation was washed away disrupting travel for a week.

Overall this looks like a good decision from the NZTA and it sounds very similar to what’s needed for Seapath in Auckland


The second piece of news was the NZTA announcing they’ve settled on a route for the Petone to Grenada Link Road and it’s one that avoids Takapu Valley which we’ve covered off before. Stuff reports

About 50 properties have been spared a date with the bulldozer after it was announced the Petone-Grenada highway, north of Wellington, will not include a link road through Takapu Valley or a wider motorway at Tawa.

The New Zealand Transport Agency has revealed the route the proposed $270 million highway will follow between Wellington’s northern suburbs and Hutt Valley, saving motorists as much as 30 minutes on return trips.

The highway will carve through the Horokiwi Crest between Petone and Tawa, providing a four-lane link with extra crawler lanes on the Petone side.

A total of 126 land parcels will be affected, many owned by public organisations and many related to development proposals.

Four new interchanges will be constructed, providing better access on and off State Highway 1 and 2 at either end as well as access to the highway for those living in Grenada Village.

The proposed route is below.

Petone to Grenada Route

One of the more interesting decisions is that the NZTA have now said they will only upgrade the motorway through Tawa if they need to in the future after the current projects are finished. This is an approach I wish they’d take with more projects.

Ms Bleakley says the Transport Agency has decided to focus on managing future traffic growth within the existing corridor, with the option of putting in place a ‘managed motorway’ (similar to the smart motorway currently being built south of Ngauranga), or a similar approach, should traffic growth require it. Only minor designation changes will be required and property impacts will be minimal.

This means that the other two options – a road through Takapu Valley, or taking property to widen the motorway north of Tawa to six lanes – will not be required as part of the proposed project.

“Over the last year and a half, we have been undertaking rigorous investigations, while working with the public and councils to make sure we understood what was important to the region. This work has helped us to identify how we can best harness the remarkable benefits of this project while minimising its effects.

“Having examined the evidence, we are confident that we can manage future traffic growth within the existing corridor north of Tawa through a ‘managed motorway’ approach if required in the future, and by utilising the shoulders of the existing road.”

I’m guessing that with the level of growth that Wellington is experiencing that even the NZTA were struggling to justify spending more.

However when speaking about justification there were a number of comments in the NZTA press release that set my BS detector off. I don’t know enough about the project to say categorically that what the NZTA claim is false but many of the comments are similar to ones they’ve made about other dubious projects. For example, the NZTA claim this route will allow Wellington to reap economic benefits. This isn’t to say there aren’t any but my guess they’re probably not as big as claimed for a couple of reasons.

The NZTA say the new motorway will cost $250 to $270 million which seems extremely unlikely given the size of the road and terrain it travels through. As a comparison the Hobsonville motorway opened in 2011 covering about the same distance and which cost $220 million. This project seems to require massive civil works to move hillsides. To see the impact watch the video on the Stuff article to see impact. Higher costs will obviously reduce the BCR of the route.

Petone to Grenada Route Hill Cut

They claim time savings of up to 30 minutes per day. This is likely to be mostly people travelling to east-west destinations but I wonder how many actually need to do that. Even getting the demand and time savings results a little wrong could have big impacts on the projected usage and therefore the benefits that accrue from the project.

Lincoln Rd to Westgate widening steaming ahead

If you live in the North West and were looking forward to the end of what has now been over five years of constant road works along the Northwestern Motorway – which started with Lincoln Rd back in October 2010 – then don’t get your hopes up for the disruption ending any time soon. The NZTA are now starting to once again talking about the section they’ve so far missed in their grand widening schemes – the bit between Lincoln Rd and Westgate. What’s more despite being silent on the project for so long they’re now talking about starting the $100+ million widening project in little over six months with work expected to take till 2019 to complete.

The NZTA say the project involves

  • Widening the motorway to create 3 lanes in both directions for motorists
  • Creating bus shoulder lanes next to the motorway in both directions
  • Extending the Northwestern Cycleway to create a 3-metre wide shared walking and cycling path from Lincoln Road to Westgate
  • Improving the Royal Road interchange and ramps. Replacing, raising and widening Royal Road Bridge, creating an on-road cycle lane, shared walking and cycling path, and new footpath
  • Replacing and raising Huruhuru Road Bridge
  • Extending the Lincoln Road on-ramp heading westbound and replacing one side of the bridge over Huruhuru Creek
  • New landscaping, urban design and lighting features
  • New wetlands to treat stormwater run-off
  • Improved safety barriers and new noise walls.

Lincoln Rd to Westgate Motorway Widening Map

I’m not necessarily opposed to the project as there are some useful aspects to it but it does seem to have the typical motorway building approach to it – that being to widen everything around this section thereby increasing the justification for to spend a heap of money ‘fixing’ on the newly created bottleneck.

Probably the most useful aspect of the project for me personally and one I’m very keen to see built is the cycleway. Normally cycleways alongside motorways aren’t great however in this situation the motorway has a shallower grade than the surrounding streets do so will be a welcome addition. That brings me to my first issue/concern. The map above shows the cycleway veering off with the motorway ramps to Makora Rd which is steep and quite narrow. As Royal Rd is on a ridgeline it means that diversion adds additional height for those on bikes (or walking) to deal with. I’d prefer to see the cycleway pass under the offramp and then stick to the level of the motorway – obviously with a connection to Royal Rd. The diversion also adds at least two sets of traffic lights that need to be negotiated.

Royal Rd over bridge

An issue perhaps even more important is the situation for buses. The NZTA are only building bus shoulder lanes in the project. While bus shoulder lanes are better than nothing it ignores that Auckland Transport want a full busway built on this section – although AT acknowledged in the West Auckland New Network consultation that bus shoulder lanes would go in first.

Busway schematic

What it all means is that AT will still have to build a busway separately at some point in the future at a much larger cost rather than the NZTA taking the One Network approach they love to talk about these days. It also highlights another inconsistency the NZTA run with. You may recall in the debate before the current works were started we and others called for a busway along SH16. At the time the NZTA hid behind the then Auckland Regional Council’s Regional Land Transport Strategy (RLTS) which only suggested bus lanes alongside the motorway. That’s not the same situation with this section though as the route from Lincoln Rd to Westgate and beyond were included as part of a possible future Rapid Transit route between Henderson and Constellation Drive.

One aspect I am a little surprised about is that the NZTA are only going to upgrade the interchange as it is and that they’re not going to add north facing ramps.

As part of this now rapidly approaching project the NZTA are going to hold a few open days – note: these aren’t consultation, more just “here’s what we’re building”.

Come along to one of our open days where you can learn more about the project and talk to the project team.
When: Saturday 14 November, 10am – 2pm
Tuesday 17 November, 4pm – 7pm
Where: Royal Road School Hall, 112 Royal Road, Massey

They say that in time for the open days, this day next they’ll update their website with designs and more information about the project.

Lastly while actual construction doesn’t start till next year the timeline the NZTA have put out suggests we’ll start seeing some physical works soon such as removing houses in the way of the widening.

Lincoln Rd to Westgate timing

Funding Kiwirail and Trucks

Yesterday Kiwirail released their annual results and once again they lost a significant amount of money – $167 million for the year. The shortfall obviously has to come from the Government. They were also keen to point out that the main reason for the loss was the cost of maintaining the rail network which includes 4,000 kilometres of track, 1500 bridges and 150 tunnels.

As sure as night follows day the truck lobby were quick to complain about Kiwirail getting government support.

The argument put forward by KiwiRail won little sympathy from the main trucking lobby group.

Ken Shirley of the Road Transport Forum accused KiwiRail of seeking special treatment, and he said the company should stand on its own feet.

“No business can say that they can only conduct themselves if they have an input from the taxpayer,” Mr Shirley said.

“They have to look at their whole pricing methods, they have to look at their management of their assets and they have to organise their business.”

That’s quite a bit rich coming from the trucking industry which is heavily subsidised by tax and ratepayers. But just how much support do they get. Below is some information from the NZTA and Ministry of Transport on his.

The three year National Land Transport Programme identifies where funding comes from and where it is spent. It predicts that over the 2015-18 period of the current NLTF over $2.7 billion in funding for transport will come from local council rates which goes towards paying their share of non-state highway projects. These are of course the roads that most trucks need to use on their journeys to get to the doors of their customers

Then we have the National Land Transport Fund – the place where fuel excise duty (FED), road user charges (RUC) and vehicle registration fees go. As the graphic shows road user charges – of which the largest contributor will likely be trucks – are expected to contribute about $4.3 billion in funding while other road users contribute $5.5 billion. Lastly there are other sources of funding which go towards projects such as the government’s regional State Highway programme which is funding a number of projects directly from general taxes.

NLTP 2015-18 revenue and investment flows

The Ministry of Transport also have information on who pays for what and where it goes. Helpfully it also breaks RUC by heavy and light vehicles (less than 3.5 tonnes). It shows that heavy vehicles make up about 4% of the NZ vehicle fleet but pay about 26% of the taxes raised. The reason for this disparity is that heavy vehicles cause significantly more road wear.

As the charts below show taxes from Heavy RUC pay for about 23% of State Highways and 25% of local roads.

Fuel Taxes

With those numbers in mind let’s turn attention to one of the biggest projects coming down the pipe – The East-West Link. As we know a near motorway quality road is proposed along the northern side of the Mangere Inlet. Auckland Transport and the NZTA say the early indicative costs are $1 billion however I believe they’re now pushing up around $1.5 billion. The reason this project is getting so much attention is primarily due to the strong lobbying from the Truck and Business lobbies. They argue that the new almost-motorway is needed to free up truck movements making it quick and easier for them to operate.

Given the truck lobby are so adamant Kiwirail shouldn’t get any help from the government and the East-West Link is primarily being built to improve freight movements I look forward to the announcement that the trucking companies are paying the full cost of this new mega road.

Of course we know not all trucking companies share the view that Kiwirail shouldn’t get any help. Mainfreight has long been a supporter of having a stronger of rail network. Richard Prebble – the former leader of the ACT party and a person with an infamous history in the history of rail in NZ – has called for it to have more investment. That is in part from him seeing the value in it as a director of Mainfreight.

Just to be clear I’m not saying we should go and start charging truckies for all projects but surely it’s about time they dropped the “we’re not subsidised” act.

One positive to come out of all of this news about Kiwirail is it appears the government are coming around to the idea of having the NZTA manage the freight network

State-owned KiwiRail is pressing the NZ Transport Authority to take over funding the national railway network and believes it has Transport Minister Simon Bridges onside in a way not true of his predecessors, Gerry Brownlee and Steven Joyce.

In comments at KiwiRail’s annual public meeting, chairman John Spencer and chief executive Peter Reidy highlighted the inclusion of a new top priority in the NZTA 2015-2019 statement of corporate intent to “integrate road and rail to improve freight network productivity” as a sign the government is coming round to the need for an integrated approach to road and rail network investment.

This is positive to hear as it’s a position that seems to be almost unanimous across a broad spectrum.

East-West and Gloucester Park Interchange

We’ve known for some time the East-West Link Connections is shaping up to be one of those projects that tries to crack a nut by using a sledgehammer. The thin lines that AT/NZTA draw on the maps make the project look small, but in reality, if built this project is going to be massive. It will involve significant reclamation of the northern side of the Mangere Inlet to build a four lane motorway limited access road – with the truck lobby wanting even fewer intersections than currently proposed. As part of the 1960s nostalgic thinking around this new road, it even appears from the maps that the new road will cut off access to the foreshore, just at a time when the Onehunga side of the inlet is about to have its foreshore restored. In addition to the new road along the foreshore the project also involves:

  • Adding new lanes on both sides of SH20 between Queenstown Road and Neilson Street.
  • A massive new motorway interchange at Neilson St to link people directly to the new road and to Onehunga as well as widening Onehunga Harbour Rd to four lanes.
  • Widening Neilson Street to four lanes and upgrading the Captain Springs Road/Neilson Street intersection – note: it seems the widening is only as far as Captain Springs Rd, not all the way to Church St.
  • The extension of the Waikaraka cycleway to Sylvia Park
  • Widening of Sylvia Park Road to four lanes and direct ramps to SH1 south of Mt Wellington
  • Adding new lanes on both sides of SH1 between the new ramps and Princes Street

Even at this early stage the NZTA suggest the entire project will cost $1 billion. If they carry on with the current thinking then my guess is that the cost will probably start pushing up closer to $1.5 billion.

East-West Preferred Option

AT/NZTA say they are going to be working closely with local community on some aspects of the project and one of those is the Neilson St interchange – or Gloucester Park Interchange as they now seem to be calling it.

I’ve been sent a presentation following a stakeholder workshop earlier this month looking at the options for this interchange. I don’t know which stakeholders are involved but one will almost certainly be The Onehunga Enhancement Society (TOES). They’re one of the key groups behind current foreshore restoration but they’re also the ones who came up with a horrific alternative plan to put an eight lane road along the foreshore and all the way to Highbrook. As I understand it, one line of their thinking is that if a massive new road is built then as mitigation they can replicate the current foreshore restoration on the inlet. While the eight lane motorway thankfully isn’t happening it seems AT/NZTA are considering some of their ideas for the interchange.

The following images show the potential options being considered for the interchange, in all you can see the route for the rail line to get to the airport.

Option A1 is a version of the TOES concept and amongst other things would require a new bridge across the harbour to go with the two motorway bridges, a rail bridge and a walking/cycling bridge. There’s also a tunnel to link people heading south on SH20 to the E-W Link. It’s actually slightly scaled back from the TOES original version which had the blue connection also as a new bridge.

Gloucester Park Interchange - Option A1

Option B1 is the NZTA’s concept and is what is shown in the first image. They note it will have impacts on:

  • Coastal Edge
  • Hopua Tuff Ring
  • Sea Scout Hall
  • Local access
  • Property

As you can see from the image, it doesn’t add any additional road crossings of the harbour, and instead sends traffic to/from Onehunga or the motorway via a new bridge over the motorway.

Gloucester Park Interchange - Option B1


The NZTA have also come up with two composite options which they’re calling Option C.

Gloucester Park Interchange - Option C1

Gloucester Park Interchange - Option C2

I personally can’t see the options that require a new bridge across the inlet stacking up, which means the most likely options to be selected would be B1 or C2

As the new road is intended to be limited access – i.e. no driveways – these plans would make it impossible to access some of the neighbouring properties such as the wharf. There are three options for how to retain local road and therefore walking/cycling access.

Option A is a tunnel under the motorway and new Onehunga Harbour Rd

Gloucester Park Interchange - Local Roads Option A

Option B is a bridge over the top of the road – this would likely link in with option A and both option Cs above.

Gloucester Park Interchange - Local Roads Option B

Option C is what they call an inner loop but which appears to be a tunnel using part of the old rail designation.

Gloucester Park Interchange - Local Roads Option C

They then combine each of the interchange options with each of the local road options, with each to go through an assessment to determine the best combination. The presentation also notes that following the workshop AT/NZTA agreed they would assess a few other aspects. It suggests not all are listed but includes:

  • Where local roads can go over, not under, the East West Connection arterial.
  • Possibilities for cut and cover of the East West Connection arterial opposite the Wharf area.
  • Alternatives for the suggested bridge, which crosses SH20 in the current options, to become a tunnel.


As you can see just from this small section alone, it is likely to be hugely expensive to build this road, which will probably do little for truck congestion because the road will be filled with single occupant cars. If the project was really about providing better access for trucks then they’d be getting on with fixing Neilson St and adding measures like truck lanes. That they’re not doing this only adds to my feeling that this is a make-work scheme for road planners/engineers, and a predetermined solution in search of a problem – much like another road crossing of the Waitemata Harbour. There’s probably also a case of those working on the project being beholden to the crazy demands of the stakeholders such as TOES and the trucking companies.

Continue reading East-West and Gloucester Park Interchange

Northern Gateway Tolls to rise

The NZTA have announced that the toll on the Northern Gateway toll road are set to increase by 10c at the end of November.

The NZ Transport Agency says tolls on the Northern Gateway Toll Road (NGTR) on State Highway 1 north of Auckland will increase on November 29 2015.

The price of each trip will increase by 10 cents for cars, motorcycles and light vehicles to $2.30 and by 30 cents to $4.70 for heavy vehicles.

The increases are the first in three and a half years and only the second increase since the toll road opened in January 2009.

The Transport Agency’s National Manager Delivery, Robyn Elston, says in order to ensure the Northern Gateway Toll Road remains viable and on course to repay its debt of $158M by 2045, occasional increases to toll prices to adjust with the rate of inflation are necessary. “As soon as the costs are repaid the toll will be removed.”

“5.7 million trips are now made each year on the 7km section of SH1 between Orewa and Puhoi, providing a shorter, quicker option to the free alternative on SH17 through Waiwera.”

Customers with a toll account don’t need to do anything as the new toll price will be automatically debited from their accounts for travel on the road from 29 November.

Administration fees for toll payment notices and service and transaction fees remain unchanged.

The Transport Agency encourages people using the toll road more than once to set up a toll account or pre-purchase tolls online, rather than stopping to pay each time you travel. Set one up today at www.tollroad.govt.nz

A couple of things come to mind about this.

  • The toll is used to pay off a loan of $158 million however it needs to be remembered that the loan doesn’t cover the total cost of the road. The entire project cost $356 million with the loan being just to build the road sooner.
  • At $2.30 the toll road still represents great value for drivers. At around 7km it saves 5km over the old route through Waiwera. Using the IRDs standard mileage rate of 74 centres per kilometre using the toll road would cost $7.48 vs $8.88 of the old route.
  • Unlike many other roads, traffic volumes on the toll road have fairly consistently risen since opening in 2009 which is fairly unsurprising given it is a faster easier route. One of the drivers of traffic increase is also that a higher percentage of traffic is choosing it over the alternative. Back when the road opened it accounted for about 73% of trips, now it accounts for about 80% of all trips. The chart below shows the average traffic volumes for each month, interestingly there hasn’t really been any growth in the number of heavy vehicles, perhaps all the trucks are just waiting for the next motorway to be built before showing up.

Northern Gateway Toll Road Taffic Volumes - Sep-15 2


  • Of the current light vehicle toll, only $1.21 is budged to goes towards paying off the actual loan, 70c to transaction costs and 29c for GST. Positively the cost per transaction has been decreasing and the net cost is actually 55c per transaction. I’d hope it will continue to reduce further now that the Tauranga Eastern Link and Takitimu Dr (formerly Route K) are now using the same system. The chart below shows the cost per transaction for each six monthly period since the road opened.

Northern Gateway Toll Road - Transaction Costs - Dec-14

  • There is bit of variability in the cost of toll roads the NZTA operate. With these changes the Northern Gateway toll will be $2.30 for light vehicles and
Light Vehicles Heavy Vehicles
Northern Gateway $2.30 $4.70
Takitimu Drive $1.80 $4.80
Tauranga Eastern Link $2.00 $5.00


Sod Turning Day: Eastern Path and Southern Motorway

It’s sod turning day with two major projects officially kicking off.

Glen Innes to Tamaki Dr Shared Path

The most interesting of these is the start of stage 1 of the Glen Innes to Tamaki Dr Shared Path. When fully finished the path is bound to become one of the most iconic walking and cycling routes in Auckland – although it is going to have some stiff competition from the likes of Skypath and Seapath, The Westhaven Promenade and the Nelson St off-ramp.

Eastern Path Section 4

Construction of one Auckland’s biggest ever cycle projects is starting on Wednesday and will be marked by a sod-turning ceremony attended by the Minister of Transport and Mayor of Auckland.

The Glen Innes to Tamaki shared path is a 7.3km path for walking and cycling that starts in Merton Rd and follows the eastern rail line to Tamaki Drive at Hobson Bay. It will create one of the most scenic bike rides in Auckland and make walking and cycling into the city easier and more convenient for people living in communities throughout the inner eastern suburbs.

Following the eastern rail line, the shared path goes across Orakei Basin and comes out at Tamaki Dr where future cycle projects are planned.

The project will be constructed in four stages. It will completed in late 2018 with the first stage from Merton Rd to St Johns Rd set to open in late 2016.

After short speeches there will be a sod-turning ceremony. In addition to Minister Simon Bridges and Mayor Len Brown, the project team from NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport will be in attendance.


Below is the approximate timing of each of the four stages.

  • Section 1: Merton Road to St Johns Road – Late 2015 – late 2016.
  • Section 3: Orakei Basin boardwalk – Mid 2016 – mid 2017.
  • Section 2: St Johns Road to Orakei Basin – Late 2016 – late 2017.
  • Section 4: Orakei Basin to Tamaki Drive – Late 2017 – late 2018.

Sections of the Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive shared path 1


The herald has reported that in total is meant to cost around $40 million to construct and AT say it has the following features:

  • The path will be around four metres wide and constructed mostly in concrete. Timber boardwalks will be used for short water crossings such as Orakei Basin and concrete for longer structures such as the proposed Hobson Bay crossing. The path will be safe and convenient for use by people on foot or on bike.
  • Good lighting will extend hours of access, particularly during winter months.
  • The route’s geography is hilly in places, but the design of the path will keep gradients as low as possible.
  • The path design will link into local communities and the project will identify future links that could be built at a later date.
  • The path will connect communities with public transport along the route.

Other than above AT haven’t said much about improving local access which I think will be critical to getting the most out of the route. Unsurprisingly this was the biggest concern of those that submitted during consultation last year with 56.8% of submitters raising Insufficient access points / Feeder routes / Poor connectivity / Tamaki Drive shared path poor quality as something they disliked about the project. The next highest dislike was concerns about it being a shared path which was raised by 15.8% of submitters.

In the past I’ve seen a number of comments questioning the priority this project has been given. As I understand things the key reason this is happening now is that the path is using the designation originally created for the cancelled Eastern Motorway. That designation will lapse soon so it makes sense to get this done before that happens. I’ve also heard it suggested that the NZTA want to free up land they own around Glen Innes now it won’t be needed for a motorway.

Southern Motorway Works

Today Simon Bridges is also kicking off the $267 million project to widen the southern motorway between Manukau and Papakura as well as upgrade the Takanini interchange. There are some aspects of this project I do think will be valuable, such as improving the Takanini Interchange which I understand is a common location for crashes however I’m not convinced the entire project is critical at this time. Like the Glen Innes Shared Path this project is being done in four stages and is due to be complete around late 2018. The four stages are shown below.

Southern Corridor Stages

From the look of things some parts of this section of motorway haven’t been touched since it was first built. Here’s a shot of the Takanini Interchange and motorway to Papakura under construction from the early 1960’s

Southern Corridor History


Waterview breakthrough

Congratulations to the NZTA and the team building the Waterview connection after Alice the tunnel boring machine broke through for the second tunnel this morning. There is still a lot of work to do to finish the tunnels such as digging the cross passages and building the actual roads but it is an important milestone. Regardless of your views of the project it is an impressive bit of engineering, especially just how accurate they are able to be.

Alice, the giant Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) has today successfully completed excavation of the second motorway tunnel on Auckland’s Waterview Connection motorway project.

One of the largest TBM’s ever used in the Southern Hemisphere broke through into daylight after its 2.4km-long journey underground between the suburbs of Waterview and Owairaka.

“Today’s breakthrough is a massive milestone for a project that will transform the way Aucklanders get around their city – a brilliant and remarkable effort and a proud day that needs to be celebrated,” says the NZ Transport Agency’s Highways Manager in Auckland, Brett Gliddon.

Around 800 staff and contractors who’ve been working hard to deliver the project, stopped work this morning to watch the breakthrough together, live on specially erected screens and celebrate their success so far.

“The risks associated with constructing tunnels twice as long as the Auckland Harbour Bridge were always high and the Waterview team rightly needs to be congratulated for its engineering skills and innovation to complete this job safely and on time. That’s a fantastic achievement.”

The $1.4bn Waterview Connection is New Zealand’s largest ever roading project. It includes construction of twin 3-lane tunnels – the longest road tunnels in the country – and a giant interchange to connect Auckland’s Northwestern and Southwestern Motorways (State Highways 16 and 20).

The project is being delivered for the Transport Agency by the Well-Connected Alliance.

Tunnelling at Waterview first began in 2013. The first tunnel was completed in September 2014. In a rare manoeuvre for any TBM worldwide, Alice was then turned 180 degrees to complete her second drive.

“The project’s careful and detailed design, planning and operation for the construction of the tunnels and the complex turnaround grabbed some pretty amazing headlines in New Zealand and overseas,” Mr Gliddon says.

During her time underground, Alice excavated enough dirt to fill 320 Olympic-sized swimming pools and installed more than 24,000 concrete segments to line both tunnels.

The TBM’s job is now complete. Over the coming months Alice will be taken apart and returned to the German company, Herrenknecht, that designed and built her.

“Although it’s the end of the road for Alice she will leave behind a lasting legacy – the world class tunnels she helped construct that will benefit Auckland and New Zealand for 100 years and more,” Mr Gliddon says.

Meanwhile, there is a busy programme of work to complete both tunnels. Sixteen cross passages linking the two tunnels are being constructed, equipment to safely operate the tunnels together with lighting and signage are being fitted, walls and the ceiling are being painted, and back-filling continues before the motorway asphalt is laid.

The Transport Agency plans to open the tunnels and the adjacent Great North Road Interchange in early 2017.

The Waterview Connection completes Auckland’s Western Ring Route, a 48km alternative route to SH1. It will link Manukau, Auckland, Waitakere and the North Shore, improving network resilience, travel time reliability and bus shoulder lanes as well as upgrading cycleway and pedestrian facilities.

The Waterview Connection project is being delivered by the Well-Connected Alliance which includes the Transport Agency, Fletcher Construction, McConnell Dowell, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Beca Infrastructure, Tonkin & Taylor and Japanese construction company Obayashi Corporation. Sub-alliance partners are Auckland-based Wilson Tunnelling and Spanish tunnel controls specialists SICE.

I am looking forward to the project being finished for a number of reasons – not least of which is the project effectively marks the practical completion of the Auckland motorway network. The idea of “completing the motorway network” is one that has been around for a long time and work on the motorways came at the expense of all other modes for many decades. With Waterview completed I hope we can then start focusing even more on completing our majorly incomplete networks such as our rapid transit and cycle networks.

Of course focusing so much on the motorways was never meant to be the plan. Those that originally dreamt up the motorways also came up with a region wide rapid transit network and even saying it should be built first otherwise the city would end up congested. Unfortunately it seems that part of the report was filed at the back of a drawer somewhere and forgotten, the motorways progressed and congestion ensued.

De Leuw Cather_Highway Report

De Leuw Cather Report 1965: Rapid Transit plan for Auckland

De Leuw Cather Report 1965: Rapid Transit plan for Auckland



Nelson St Cycleway gets closer

The NZTA have released a video of what the Nelson St offramp and the New Canada St Bridge will look like when finished soon. It is due to open in December – and as such it’s kind of odd that they’ve released a video when it’s so close to completion.



Final piece of ‘soaring cycling sensation’ over Auckland’s Central Motorway Junction is now in place

The last of seven sections of the Canada Street Bridge was lifted into place in the early hours of this morning (Thursday 15 October), completing the 160m long connection from Canada Street to the old Nelson Street off-ramp.

The completion of the new bridge is a significant milestone towards completing the first phase of the Nelson Street Cycleway.

The NZ Transport Agency has released an animated video showing how Phase 1 will look when it’s completed.

The cycleway stretches from Upper Queen Street to Victoria Street and is expected to open in early December; Phase 2 will extend to Quay Street and be open by the middle of 2016.

“The complexity of the curved bridge structure has meant the installation has been a careful and staged process,” says Brett Gliddon, the NZ Transport Agency’s Auckland Highways Manager.

“We’re proud of the architectural excellence this bridge brings to the inner-city network and the standard it’s setting for transport infrastructure.”

The bridge design is already being recognised internationally and has been shortlisted in the World Architecture Awards which will be announced in Singapore next month.

“People have been watching the bridge installation in the middle of the Central Motorway Junction (CMJ) over the last month and we know it’s created a buzz about how we’re delivering our shared vision of making cycling a safe and viable transport option.”

Cyclists are among those who have been watching the project progress and who’re excited about the changing face of cycling infrastructure in Auckland.

“The bridge is a soaring cycling sensation in the midst of Auckland’s motorway maze. We are already claiming it as a creative landmark for ‘The New Auckland,” says Barbara Cuthbert from Cycle Action Auckland.

The 260 tonne bridge was built in sections, which vary in length from 14 to 42 metres. It was fabricated in Hamilton, painted in Pukekohe and transported to the Central Motorway Junction under full motorway night closures.

The cycleway connects with the existing Northwestern Cycleway and Grafton Gully.


An animation showing how Phase 1 of the cycleway will look and feel is now available on our website http://www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/nelson-street-cycleway/videos/ A timelapse video of the installation of the largest section of the Canada Street Bridge, as well as the factory construction is also online. For those who don’t want to wait until the bridge opens there are great views of the structure from the end of South Street.

The Nelson Street Cycleway is being funded through the Urban Cycleways Programme (UCP). It is being jointly delivered by the Transport Agency, Auckland Council and Auckland Transport. The UCP will accelerate key projects over the next three years and help establish cycling as an integral part of Auckland’s transport network. For more information on the project www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/nelson-street-cycleway/

Is Auckland costing New Zealand too much?

Auckland is currently growing more rapidly than the rest of New Zealand – as it has been doing for most of the last century. At the same time, other New Zealand regions are struggling with aging populations and drifting economies.

NZ city population growth 1926-2006

Source: Grimes and Tarrant (2013)

Understandably, some people look at these trends and conclude that Auckland’s a bit of a problem. If the city’s prospering while small towns decline, isn’t it because the government is spending too much money trying to pump growth into Auckland and too little elsewhere?

In short, is Auckland costing New Zealand too much?

The answer, in a word, is no. If anything, the government’s spending a little bit less in Auckland than it spends elsewhere. But don’t just take my word for that – let’s take a look at the data on where central government is spending money.

A few years back, NZIER did a useful analysis of where the government spent money and provided services. The following tables summarises their key findings. Overall, they find that Auckland gets only 31-32% of overall government expenditure – slightly less than its share of the population.

Regional government spending table

For all the visual thinkers out there, here’s a chart of government spending per person in New Zealand’s five most populous regions. Aucklanders get less spending per capita than the other large regions. This reflects the city’s young demographics – more workers, fewer pensioners – as well as the economies of scale enabled by larger, denser places.

Regional government expenditures per capita chart

But regardless of those advantages, the picture is clear: Aucklanders get a bit less government spending per person than residents of other regions – not more.

But, you say, what about all these costly transport investments we keep hearing about? Isn’t NZTA putting up megabucks to dig the Waterview tunnels and widen motorways and occasionally build the odd kilometre of busway? Isn’t Auckland Transport looking for money for CRL and light rail?

In other words, maybe we’re putting all our capital investment eggs in the Auckland basket?

NZIER’s report also seems to puncture that myth. They found that Auckland received around 35% of central government’s overall capital expenditures – only a wee bit more than the city’s share of the population. So it’s not like the government’s investing wildly in Auckland and leaving no money for other regions.

That being said, data on transport expenditures alone paints a slightly different picture. When I looked at NZTA’s regional expenditure analysis, I found that Auckland received almost half of the agency’s spending on new and improved roads over the last decade. (Unfortunately, consistent data isn’t available on PT infrastructure expenditure, as a lot of that is funded out of general tax funds or local government rates.)

However, this level of spending isn’t fundamentally out of line with Auckland’s growth. The following table looks at spending and population growth outcomes for New Zealand’s five most populous regions. It compares the share of NZTA’s spending on new and improved roads over the 2004-2013 period with each region’s share of national population growth between the 2006 and 2013 Censuses and their share of projected population growth to 2043.

Region Share of NZTA spending on new and improved roads, 2005-2014 Share of population growth 2006-2013 Share of projected population growth 2013-2043
Auckland 48.5% 55.0% 61.5%
Canterbury 5.9% 6.4% 13.9%
Wellington 10.1% 10.3% 5.2%
Waikato 13.7% 10.4% 7.8%
Bay of Plenty 8.0% 4.4% 4.1%

A couple of things jump out at me from this table:

  • Although Auckland has received a large share of new road spending over the last decade, this may just be enough to keep up with current and projected population growth.
  • NZTA spending on new roads in Canterbury over this period hasn’t been wildly disproportionate relative to its population growth over the same period – although spending figures will have been bumped up by the Canterbury earthquake rebuild. However, Canterbury’s growth projections imply that there may be a case to spend more in the region.
  • On the flip side, Wellington, Waikato, and the Bay of Plenty all received a higher share of spending on new roads than their growth projections imply. Wellington, for example, has received 10% of national spending on new roads over the past decade, even though it’s only projected to accommodate 5% of national population growth over the next three decades. (Transmission Gully will boost the spending figure higher.)

Finally, spending on new roads only accounts for around 1/2 of NZTA’s overall budget. The remainder, which is spent on stuff like road maintenance and PT operations, tends to be distributed on a more or less proportionate basis.

So that’s it in a nutshell. Auckland’s hardly the rapacious parasite that some people make it out to be – it’s not sucking small towns dry of their tax dollars. If anything, it’s the opposite: taxes paid in Auckland fund pensions for small town residents. And while Auckland has been getting a higher share of spending on new roads, that’s not unreasonable given the current and projected rate of population growth in the city.

What do you think about regional government spending?