In stunning news yesterday the Board of Inquiry hearing the case for the Basin Bridge bowled out the NZTA by declined consent for the project. This is what it would have looked like had it been approved:
All up the bridge would have been 265m long and carved a slice out of Wellington’s urban fabric at a time when other cities around the world are starting to pull these kinds of structures down – and finding it doesn’t cause traffic chaos.
The independent Board of Inquiry delegated to hear and decide the Basin Bridge Proposal of National Significance has released its draft report and decision.
The Board by majority decision (3 to 1), has cancelled the New Zealand Transport Agency’s Notice of Requirement and declined its resource consent applications for the construction, operation and maintenance of State Highway 1 in Wellington City between Paterson Street and Buckle Street/Taranaki Street.
The draft report and decision is available on the EPA website here: http://www.epa.govt.nz/Resource-management/Basin_Bridge/Pages/Basin_Bridge.aspx
A total of 215 submissions were received, and evidence was heard from 69 witnesses and representations by a further 74 submitters.
The applicant and other parties now have 20 days to make comments on minor or technical aspects of the report.
The Board will provide its final decision to the EPA by 30 August 2014.
This is quite a setback for both the NZTA and the government as the project is a key part of the Roads of National Significance (RoNS) programme and the Board of Inquiry (BoI) process was specifically set up to try and streamline the consent process for large projects. One of the key changes the government made in creating the BoI process was that appeals against can be made to the High Court on points of law only, and any decision cannot be overturned by the Minister. The outcome of this is that it’s meant agencies have had to do much more work upfront as there’s no second chance if they get it wrong. This led to the process taking longer to ensure all I’s were dotted and all T’s crossed and that extra length of time along with the risk of getting it wrong is one of the reasons Auckland Transport went with the traditional consenting method for the CRL.
But the NZTA clearly got this one wrong and have paid the price by not getting consent. This has effectively sent them back to square one and a flyover option is now off the table.
The report on the BoI’s findings runs to almost 600 pages so naturally I haven’t had time to go through it all yet however I here are some points I picked up on about their decision which starts from page 444 (page 453 of the PDF).
- That while the project would improve the cities transport system that it would do so at the expense of heritage, landscape, visual amenity, open space and overall amenity.
- They are uncertain how the plan would have actually accommodated for Bus Rapid Transit as proposed in the Spine Study.
- That the quantum of transport benefits were substantially less than what the NZTA originally said in lodging the NoR as they included transport benefits from other projects.
- That while North/South buses would be sped up, that the modelling doesn’t show any impact effect of this on modal change.
- That while there are some improvements for cyclists it’s mostly in the form of shared paths which will introduce potential conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists.
- That the dominance of the bridge would cause severe adverse affects on the local area and the mitigation measures proposed would do little to reduce that. They also found the new building proposed for the Basin Reserve would exacerbate this.
Perhaps some of the most damming criticism is in relation to the consideration of alternatives. The board say that despite there having been 73 different options considered since 2001 that the methodology wasn’t transparent and replicable. They say that weightings were applied to some criteria at different stages of the process but that it wasn’t clear how criteria were weighted and the reason for any weighting. They say that in their view it was incumbent on the NZTA to ensure it adequately considered alternative options, particularly those with potentially reduced adverse effects. This simply was not done. Of course you may remember that the issue around alternatives was one of the critical issues highlighted in the independent review the BoI arranged.
I think the issue of the inadequacy of the assessment of alternatives is particularly important as that has been a key criticism of the Puhoi to Warkworth route, a decision on which is due back shortly.
Interestingly not all of the commissioners on the panel believed that the consent should be declined. Commissioner David McMahon voted to the project saying that in his mind the benefits outweighed the impacts of the project will have. His reasoning for doing so are also in the report.
The big question now is what next. The NZTA has to go back to the drawing board to find or progress some alternative options but how will the government react. As of the time of writing this post I still hadn’t seen any response from the government despite this putting a huge dent in the RoNS programme.
Overall this is a fantastic result for Wellington and congratulations to all those like Save the Basin who put huge amounts effort in to fighting this project.
Another series of consultation events that will happen this week will be for the East West Link and the replacement of the Old Mangere Bridge.
Communities will get the chance to have their say about two significant transport projects in their area – the East West Connections and the replacement of the of the old Mangere bridge.
The NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport say there is an open invitation for people to attend three community days planned for later this month. Two of them – at the Onehunga night market (Thursday 24 July, 6pm-10pm) and at Sylvia Park shopping mall near the foodcourt (Sunday 27 July, 10am-1pm) – focus on the East West Connections project. The third – at Waterfront Road Reserve, Mangere Bridge (Saturday 26 July, 10am-4pm) – will focus on both the East West Connections and the next stage of replacing the old Mangere bridge.
The Transport Agency’s acting Highways Manager, Steve Mutton, says the community days deliver on earlier commitments from the Agency and Auckland Transport to work with local people.
“We want to build on the great feedback we’ve had from people to replace the bridge and carry that on into the East West Connections programme. This is the latest step for us to ensure that we fully understand what people are experiencing when travelling in Onehunga, Mt Wellington, Otahuhu, Penrose, Mangere and East Tamaki,” Mr Mutton says.
Community input will help the Transport Agency and Auckland Transport develop their East West Connections programme to improve commuter and freight links, public transport and walking and cycling options over the next 30 years.
“We have already identified freight issues that need immediate attention in Onehunga-Penrose – that’s a key priority given the area’s importance for jobs and the Auckland and New Zealand economies. We will be working with stakeholders and the community in coming months as investigations progress for those improvements.
“But we are not losing sight of the issues people are facing in the wider area. The vibrant communities in the area are likely to experience a growth in the number of people who chose to live and work in them. The predicted growth will put additional pressure on the existing transport network”
“We’ve already identified the need to improve reliability of public transport between Mangere and Sylvia Park – there will be other areas for improvement. We want the conversation with local people now so that as we progress with improvements in Onehunga-Penrose, we can also continue to work with communities to address their issues,” says Mr Mutton.
The community day at Mangere Bridge on 26 July will also be a chance for people to see the proposed design for the new bridge connecting Onehunga and Mangere Bridge.
“The earlier feedback from the community was a catalyst for the project and guided the bridge design,” Mr Mutton says. “We’ve worked hard to integrate the community’s requests, and we’re optimistic that they will be pleased with our design when they see it.”
Some features of the original bridge will be retained, with the new structure curving towards the motorway bridge. It will be high enough for small boats to pass underneath. A wider span also means that some form of opening for larger craft is not precluded in future. Two artists have been commissioned to incorporate the area’s history and values into the design through art.
“Replacing the old bridge and the East West Connections are two very different projects with one similar outcome – helping the Transport Agency and Auckland Transport get the best solutions to improve the area’s transport network. We want to hear the views of people to help achieve that,” Mr Mutton says.
On the East West Link it will be interesting to see if they actually show what they plan to do for the project or if they will just talk about the need for it. This is especially the case as I know they showed business and road lobby groups exactly what they plan to build about 7 months ago.
We can get a bit of a background as to what they will show from some of the information on the AT website including this image which highlights all the issues they’ve identified in the area.
For a big click the photo or for the original it’s from here (5MB).
This image (on the NZTA website) shows all of the projects going on in the area.
As for the Old Mangere Bridge Replacement this newsletter shows a couple of impressions of what it may look like.
The NZTA and OPUS are conducting a travel survey looking at the travel patterns of New Zealanders and in particular looking at future anticipated changes in travel patterns in the future. While the survey is open to anyone they are focusing primarily on those who are in the 15-35 age bracket. By filling it in you can also win $1,000 worth of vouchers.
How do you want to be able to travel in the future? The NZTA and Opus are currently conducting an online survey which needs your opinions to inform upcoming transport infrastructure investment reviews.
All respondents to this approximately 20 minute long survey can enter a prize draw for $1000 worth of vouchers* of the winners choosing. Note that there is a particular focus on those aged 15-35 years, however, anyone can participate as the perspectives of a cross-section of New Zealanders are desired.
If you are interested in participating or would like further information about the survey, please click here before Monday the 4th of August 2014. Please also feel free to share this link with anyone else you think may like to participate.
It should be interesting to see what the outcomes of the survey are.
This post is an update on two of the three key busway projects in Auckland at the moment, the extension of the Northern Busway to Albany and a busway along SH16 (the third one is the AMETI busway).
Northern Busway Extension
The Northern Busway has been an outstanding success since opening fully in 2008. Despite only being grade separated for 41% of the route it has managed to exceed patronage projections and defy the doubters who claimed it would be a waste of money. It’s even had the remarkable success of significantly changing mode share with the number of people crossing at peak times on a bus increasing from 18.5% in 2004 to 41% in 2012.
NZ Herald Cartoon 14 Feb 2008 – The day after the busway opened
One of the most crucial projects we need to be getting on with is the extension of the Northern Busway from Constellation to Albany. When the government announced it’s package of motorway projects in June last year the associated map included “Northern Busway Improvements”
It’s also mentioned on the NZTA page for the Northern Corridor improvements as component 5.
In July we found out that the plan to extend the busway was estimated to cost about $250 million and that the busway would actually stay on the Eastern side of the motorway to make it easier for a future extension to Silverdale (which would cost an additional $300 million. It would be connected to the Albany busway station by a dedicated bridge across the motorway.
So it should be about to be constructed right? Unfortunately not.
Papers released by The Treasury show the project isn’t part of the government funding package anymore.
The Northern Busway
25. An extension to the Northern Busway was previously included as part of the Northern Corridor package of projects.
26. The NZ Transport Agency has advised it would need $250 million to deliver this project on accelerated timeframes but that investigations and route protection for the project can continue without additional financial assistance from the Crown.
The point 27 which has been withheld is “to maintain the current constitutional conventions protecting the confidentiality of advice tendered by ministers and officials”
From conversations I’ve had it appears the NZTA were quite keen to get on with the busway extension and had expected to get the go ahead to do so but were stopped by The Treasury who pulled the funding for it at the last minute. I suspect that’s what point 27 refers to. My understanding is now all the NZTA can do is to make sure that the motorway plans they do proceed with leave enough space so that they don’t stop the busway from happening at some point in the future.
I guess we won’t know exactly why funding was pulled and I notice none of the other motorway projects have had parts stripped out of them. It appears to me that this is just a continuation of the single mode focus that has dominated the transport discussion for so many decades and it’s both hugely frustrating and disappointing. It’s also an insult to anyone who lives on the upper North Shore or up by Orewa/Whangaparaoa and who wants better choices in how they get around.
We’ve called for a busway along SH16 for a long time and it is a key part to the Congestion Free Network.
It’s also an idea that seems to continue to gain some traction. In my view it’s a project that will become increasingly important as large greenfield land gets developed in the North West. The area already contains ~40,000 dwellings and it’s been estimated there will be additional 80,000 over the next 30 years. To put it another way it will grow by about the size of the North Shore.
In March last year Auckland Transport proposed a bus interchange station at Te Atatu between the motorway and Titoki St however it seemed to have a couple of major flaws like requiring all westbound buses to cross the motorway twice just to access the station. There was also significant community opposition to the proposal and in the end AT dropped the idea and went back to the drawing board. In a response to an OIA request initially to the NZTA but passed to Auckland Transport they say:
There’s no information about what that new interchange station may look like but it’s positive to hear that they are now looking at full busway along the route – although I suspect only from Te Atatu west. My guess is we might hear more about the project later this year when the consultation for the new network in West Auckland happens.
Of course even with a full busway is chosen who knows if or when it would be funded. In my mind it should be an NZTA project like the Northern Busway however considering how difficult it appears to be to get the extension to that funded we could be waiting a long time for a Northwest busway.
In the May budget the Government announced they would fastrack yet another $800 million of motorway projects, partially financed by a $375 million loan. These were projects that had been identified in the Prime Minister’s Auckland speech in 2013. There were 3 main projects as outlined below.
Two of these projects have major potential to impact on 2 key elements of the Congestion Free Network.
The first is the State Highway 20A upgrade, which involves extending the motorway about 2 extra kilometres towards the airport.
NZTA says the main features are:
Grade separation of SH20A and Kirkbride Rd intersection
Upgrading of SH20A to motorway standards: two lanes in each direction plus dedicated bus priority lanes
Reprioritisation of Ascot Rd / Kirkbride Rd intersection
Installation of truck priority lanes and ramp signalling
Relocation and integration of cycle lanes in local road network
Note there is no mention at all of rail to the airport, which would follow the motorway corridor from Onehunga most of the way to the airport. It is of upmost importance that a rail corridor is reserved by NZTA when they are planning and building the project. They have done this on the SH20 extensions through Mt Roskill, however there was a designation already in place so the situation is somewhat different. Auckland Transport has been investigating rapid transit along this route since 2011. Initially they said the route protection was to begin in late 2011, however 3 years later we have learned little. The latest we have is an April 2014 update which suggests that a preferred alignment will be identified in 2014. While the Airport’s Masterplan may be causing issues at the southern end of the route, work should still be moving ahead in the northern area. It is essential that NZTA and AT work together to speed up alignment identification in this area, something which has been highlighted by the Campaign for Better Transport. If the upgrade is built without an alignment for the rail corridor it will add huge extra cost to the airport rail project. For one thing all the new overbridges would have to be rebuilt, which would be a huge waste of money. Auckland Council need to send a strong message to the government that this would be unacceptable, and ensure the rail corridor is allowed for in the design.
The second project is the suite of Northern Corridor projects, which largely revolve around the State Highway 1 to State Highway 18 grade-separation and associated widening. In December 2013 NZTA claimed there were 5 main components to the Northern Corridor projects.
Component 1 is already under construction (costing $19.5 million). Component 2 seems to be the smart low-cost improvements. The announcement above seems to refer to Components 1 to 4, totally leaving out the much needed Northern Busway extension to Albany. Currently the Northern Express speeds the 15km from Britomart to Constellation Station in just over 20 minutes. However the last 4km to Albany can take 15 minutes as there is no bus priority. This busway extension is another project that NZTA and AT have been working on for years, and seems have got bogged down somehow. In 2011 NZTA were saying that the route needed to be designated soon due to the development taking place. Last year we found out a little more about the route investigations, which suggested it would cost $249 million.
planned SH1/SH18 motorway upgrade
The planned motorway interchange upgrade is quoted as costing an astonishing $450 million. For that cost the project is totally unnecessary for something that just replaces a few at grade intersections with ramps. The focus should be much more on cost-effective targeted upgrades, then we could have the busway extension to Albany and plenty of spare change. The result would be lots more people using the busway, and reduced traffic congestion along the entire Northern Motorway and CBD.
The third set of projects around the Southern Motorway don’t have any components of the Congestion Free Network linked with them. However the upgrades should be a good chance to make Great South Road better for pedestrians, cyclists and buses. The one positive of this project is this means the current expensive plans to turn Mill Road into a 4 lane highway should disappear, and be replaced by a much cheaper safety upgrade. This would be a great way to free up over $200 million to help with Auckland Transport’s stretched budget.
The NZTA is advising there’s only two days left to have a say on the fate of the Pohutakawa trees on Gt North Rd which they and the NZTA want to wipe out to widen Gt North Rd.
The NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport remind people that submissions on improvements at the St Lukes Road Bridge, as part of the SH16 St Lukes to Great North Road Interchanges upgrade, close this Thursday, 3 July.
The Transport Agency’s Highways Manager, Steve Mutton, says the submissions are an opportunity for people to have their say on proposals which affect their community.
“This is a chance for the public to provide us and our partners, Auckland Transport, with their views and concerns, and any other feedback on the changes at St Lukes” says Mr Mutton.
People can make submissions online on the Auckland Council website, www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz
The current proposal for an additional left hand turn onto St Lukes Road bridge, to handle the predicted change of traffic when the Waterview tunnels open in early 2017, requires the removal and replacement of six Pohutukawa trees.
“We want to assure people that our proposal includes replacement of the trees with six semi-mature Pohutakawa that will be 6-8 metres tall when they are planted,” says Mr Mutton.
“We acknowledge, however, that the community does have concerns about the removal and replacement of the trees at the St Lukes interchange. This is why we’ve asked for the consent to remove and replace them be publically notified. We want to ensure that community views are included as part of the decision making process,” says Mr Mutton.
The Transport Agency is currently widening the Northwestern Motorway (SH16) from three to four lanes in each direction, and improving the St Lukes motorway ramps. As part of the project, Auckland Transport is funding improvements to the St Lukes Road-Great North Road intersection, and widening the St Lukes Road overbridge to benefit drivers, walkers and cyclists.
St Lukes is the last of six related projects to connect the Northwestern and Southwestern motorways and complete the Western Ring Route (WRR) – identified by the Government as one of its Roads of National Significance to help improve the economy and road safety.
The Western Ring Route will provide a 47km-long alternative to SH1 between Albany and Manukau. It will provide more reliable city connections – particularly with developing commercial and residential areas in the northwest and southwest – and improve regional transport connections for people and freight.
There’s more about the overall project here and below are some images of what they want to do.
As well as submitting on the proposal you might also want to consider signing this petition.
If you do make a submission it’s also probably worth highlighting the downgrading of the pedestrian facilities too.
Here’s the link to the plan change to submit against
The Government yesterday announced it plans to spend over $200 million on a series of regional roading projects. This is clearly a result of trying to keep the regions happy from a potential backlash after they announced a motorway splurge in Auckland last year. Like the Auckland package these projects are being funding outside of the National Land Transport Fund and in this case the money is meant to be coming from their asset sales fund.
Prime Minister John Key has this morning announced $212 million from the Future Investment Fund for a package of 14 regionally important State highway projects.
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee says the government is committing up to $80 million from the package to accelerate five critically important regional projects, with work beginning next year.
These five projects are:
- Kawarau Falls Bridge, in Otago
- Mingha Bluff to Rough Creek realignment, in Canterbury
- Akerama Curves Realignment and Passing Lane, in Northland
- State Highway 35 Slow Vehicle Bays, in Gisborne
- Normanby Overbridge Realignment, in Taranaki.
“These projects are fully investigated and designed, and address current safety, resilience or productivity issues, but construction wasn’t due to begin until late this decade or after 2020,” Mr Brownlee says.
“Following today’s announcement construction on these projects could begin in 2014/15, and be completed by 2016/17.
“The government is committed to fund the next six projects with an additional $115 million and subject to the usual investigations, construction would be expected to begin within three years on each of these projects.
The six projects are:
- Whirokino Trestle Bridge replacement, in Manawatu/Wanganui
- Motu Bridge replacement, in Gisborne
- Opawa and Wairau Bridge replacements, in Marlborough
- Taramakau Road/Rail Bridge, on the West Coast
- Loop road north to Smeatons Hill safety improvements, in Northland
- Mt Messenger and Awakino Gorge Corridor, in Taranaki.
“A further $12 million will be available to accelerate investigation and design of three large projects in Hawke’s Bay, Nelson and the Bay of Plenty,” Mr Brownlee says.
These projects are:
- Port of Napier access package, in Hawke’s Bay
- Nelson Southern Link, in Nelson
- Rotorua Eastern Arterial, in Bay of Plenty.
“Each project could then be considered for funding under the proposed Regional Improvements activity class in the next Government Policy Statement on land transport.
“By directly funding some of the most crucial State highway improvements, the government is freeing up more funding in the Regional Improvements activity class for other priority projects.
“This funding package also strongly complements the government’s Roads of National Significance programme, ensuring people and freight reach their destinations quickly and safety,” Mr Brownlee says.
Here is a map of roughly where they’re each located.
I imagine that some of the projects on this list actually make sense and were probably only so far away from being fund through normal procedures due to the Roads of National Significance sucking up all the new State Highway spending . The Ministry of Transport go further by saying that all of the projects in the first group have a BCR of greater than one and in some cases it’s more than four. That would put them better than some of the RoNS like the 0.2 for the Kapiti Expressway. The MoT say the next six projects are still being investigated and are expected to “also be high quality projects” however this document from 2013 shows the Whirokino Trestle Bridge replacement to have a BCR of 0.5 or 0.6 depending on what option is chosen.
What seems to be a common theme amongst many of the projects is that they are replacing bridges that aren’t able to carry the new super heavy trucks the government allowed a few years ago.
Perhaps the most worrying thing about this announcement isn’t so much the projects themselves but that the government is getting more and more involved in picking projects rather than leaving it up to the NZTA to decide on spending based on merit. It started with the RoNS and last year we got the Auckland package.
Even for the projects in the top 5 which are said to be ready to go there is very little information available. The only two I could find are the Karawau Falls Bridge and the Mingha Bluff to Rough Creek realignment.
The Karawau Falls Bridge is expected to cost $20-25 million and will replace the current 88 year old single lane bridge which they say could be renovated to provide a walking and cycling connection.
Mingha Bluff to Rough Creek realignment is roughly a 5km realignment of SH3 south of Arthurs Pass
Lastly here are some tweets from John Key’s twitter account when announcing this further road spend up.
It’s completely disingenuous to say that good roads are good for public transport. None of the roading projects pushed by the government over the last 6 years have had any benefit to public transport and many (like those in Wellington) will actually work against the PT system. What all of the projects have primarily been about is moving bigger and heavier trucks.
According to a document sent to us anonymously Auckland Transport are planing all sorts of ways to move its staff around. One in particular stood out.
The document says because:
- congestion delays can occur at any time on the road network
- public transport is too slow and infrequent
- senior executive time is so valuable
Only real solution is to be able to rise above all of this by AT leasing a corporate Helicopter!
The document goes on to mention additional advantages of this form of transport for selected team members and significant guests, as well as offering speed and efficiency:
- would enable an excellent overview of the city’s transport needs especially congestion issues and network constraints
- oversight of progress on the delivery of important projects
- excellent opportunity for hosting important stakeholders
- brands the organisation as a future focused transport innovator
And that the author expects the government would likely be supportive because of the ‘decongestion benefits of removing staff cars from roads’ and as ‘the time savings are impressive’. Also noting that the current Minister in particular loves rides in ‘this sort of vehicle’. And that a recent meeting with the Minister in Auckland had to be curtailed early because of uncertainty on how long it might take for the crown limo to get to the airport in rush-hour traffic. Such an investment would ‘give certainty to this sort of vital journey’.
Informal enquiries already suggest that NZTA would share both costs and use, proving again the efficiencies of having both organisations in the same building. However the document goes on to mention that it is a great shame that consideration of this wasn’t given when leasing city office space as the HSBC building, unlike the Council’s new office tower, doesn’t have a helipad on the roof, meaning that transfers will still have to be made to the Mechanics Bay Heliport for city operations. Even better would be for a Helipad to be added to Queens Wharf plans, suggests the idea be proposed as adding rescue and disaster resilience to the centre city.
No problem making space at the Henderson office for landing and support because of the large and low value staff car park there.
The author warns that Auckland MoT staff are likely to be jealous of this and that any announcement may also alert senior Council staff to the idea too [and their helipad], so it is important that the idea be kept under wraps until it is actioned. Suggests waiting until planned on-road staff shuttles are in place then implementing the Heli-Shuttle simply as a natural progression from these.
A sort of Super-Shuttle I guess.
No mention of the costs of this proposal in the document. But the author recommends the Eurocopter EC-130 which seat six + pilot and sell for about USD 2.1 million. A number of these are operated by Advance Flight in Onehunga and are available for lease.
The NZTA posted this series of images from one of their webcams on twitter yesterday showing how quickly the driving conditions can change.
Update 24/7/14 – Given the rumours flying around today about Government announcing the possible acceleration of this project, we have made this earlier post “sticky” while we write up a new post on the issue for tomorrow.
This is the first of a couple of posts looking more closely at the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing project and how we could do it differently.
Last week there was some renewed debate over the merits of the Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing (AWHC) project, due to former Local Government Minister Michael Bassett suggesting it should start nearly immediately and made a lot more sense than the City Rail Link. I outlined why that particular argument is complete rubbish previously, but I think it’s worth delving back into exactly why AWHC is an unnecessary, wasteful, counter-productive and completely stupid project. For the purposes of this post, I’m talking about the AWHC project’s roading components as proposed in quite a lot of detail here by NZTA.
Continue reading How the AWHC is a waste of $5.3 billion