On This Day… Waterview Connection now too Expensive?

Today’s “On This Day” post comes from 2009:

Well there has been a very interesting/horrifying (depending on your point of view) report that has come out today on the Waterview Connection, which points towards the cost of the tunnels being $2.77 billion rather than the $1.89 billion estimated a year or so back when the tunnel was first decided upon as the best option. As the reports says:

Funding the project through the Crown account would create a liability on the Crown balance sheet. The cost of the Waterview Connection would increase the Crown’s gross debt by a little less than one percent of GDP. Given that gross debt is already forecast to exceed the Government’s target of 20 percent of GDP, Ministers need to consider whether this project is affordable, given its relatively modest net economic benefits if built now

Now I’m feeling quite mixed about this. For a start, I’m fairly mixed on the Waterview Connection project altogether as I’m against building more motorways in Auckland, I’m against a roading project eating up THAT much transport funding; yet at the same time if the project is to be built I absolutely want it to be a tunnel and not a surface motorway. Also the idea of a 5km long tunnel in Auckland is pretty cool from a pure engineering feat kind of perspective. It’s definitely something I would have found hugely exciting a few years ago.

The Waterview Connection is considered by a lot of people to be a pretty critical link in Auckland’s motorway network. Yes, it is the last unbuilt part of the “Western Ring Route”, which is supposed to be a viable alternative to State Highway 1 and therefore ease congestion through the central part of the motorway system significantly once it’s complete. I’m a little dubious about the expected traffic benefits, as traffic engineers have a really nasty habit of ignoring “induced demand” and just expect that if 100,000 cars a day are removed from the Central Motorway Junction by the Waterview Connection, that roadspace will remain free and clear and congestion on Auckland’s motorways will be a thing of the past. In my view that’s total rubbish. For a start, a four-lane tunnel would struggle to cope with 100,000 cars a day: Victoria Park’s viaduct has about 90,000 a day and is one of Auckland’s worst motorway bottlenecks. Furthermore, the Waterview Connection is actually a heck of a long way away from State Highway 1 and I imagine that a lot of the trips it would attract are made by people who currently use parts of the Northwest motorway or local roads to join in with Hillsborough Road and State Highway 20. In summary, I reckon the motorway’s time-saving and congestion-easing benefits have probably been hugely over-stated. And when one considers that a cost-benefit ratio of 1.15 is totally dependent on time-saving and congestion-easing it’s pretty easy to see how it could turn into a pointless project.

It is true that I am not a traffic engineer and I might be wrong in the above analysis. That’s why I have been looking forward to reading the traffic report for this project for a very long time. I’ll get hold of it…. one day.

So, if a $2.77 billion price-tag does make the project a non-starter, which seems very likely from what the transport minister is saying, where to from here? Obviously there are two options: either forget about the project altogther or find a way to build it cheaper. The first I’m OK with, as even a small proportion of those funds (whether it’s $1.89 billion or $2.77 billion) invested in Auckland’s public transport system could have a much greater benefit than building a 5km stretch of road, in my opinion.  The CBD rail loop has been (perhaps conservatively) costed at around $1 billion. The long-term benefits of this project, in nudging our rail system significantly along the path to being world-class, would surely be greater than a shortish stretch of new motorway. You could also have enough spare change left over to build a railway line to the airport. So I’m fine with the project being indefinitely delayed or cancelled. With the effects of peak oil just around the corner if the project is pushed back ten years or so it’ll be a complete non-starter.

What I am truly worried about is if the government starts looking at options for a surface route, which I am sure they will be doing. This is despite the fact that surface-route options have been analysed over and over again throughout the past 5-10 years and always found to have unacceptable effects on the environment and the local community. One of the main justifications for the tunnel proposed was that compared to a surface level road the cost difference wasn’t actually that great, largely because a significant amount of property acquisition could be avoided. Furthermore, along a potential surface route there are some enormous questions to be answered: how to get around the Auckland urban area’s largest waterfall? How to not completely destroy Waterview? How to not destroy Oakley Creek? How to compensate for an enormous loss of public open space? How to work within the rail designation where it exists to make sure a future Avondale-Southdown rail route is not compromised? And how to actually successfully designate the area northwest of New North Road that has never been ‘set aside’ for a motorway project.  The last time NZTA tried to designate land in Auckland City, for the Manukau Harbour Crossing Project, they got criticised hugely by the Onehunga community and eventually withdrew their notice of requirement and agreed to abandon upgrading the Onehunga interchange.

I was already thinking about making a submission against the Waterview Connection – on the grounds of it not being justified and also because of worries about air pollution from the ventilation towers. If a surface route is proposed I’ll be rather widening my opposition I think.

No matter what happens, we’ve just added at least another couple of years to the timeline of the Waterview Connection being completed. All the consenting documentation for the tunnel had been completed just before Christmas (after close to two years of work on the design of the tunnels) so if all that work is now pointless it’s going to lead to a huge delay in this project happening. Which, as I said before, is not necessarily a bad thing.

Update:

Six years later and the project is now over half constructed. It’s tunnel portion is only marginally shorter than what in 2009 they said would cost $2.77 billion yet interestingly, the cost is almost exactly half this number: $1.4 billion. Furthermore, the tunnel is now being built as a six-lane motorway rather than a four-lane one.

Waterview Ramps Aug 14

The lesson in this story is that prices for major projects come down, and we should expect this trend to continue for the City Rail Link as more is understood about what’s actually needed and what’s just sitting in a huge contingency fund.

Lastly I’m looking forward to when the project is completed. The slogan that we need to “complete the motorway network” has been around for a few decades now and this project should represent it’s completion. As such it means we should be able to really focus all future investment on delivering a complete public transport network (dreams are free).

Why the “Pohutukawa 6″ has got people so passionate

Patrick’s post last week on the Western Springs Pohutukawas has easily been our most read post of the year so far and highlighted what seems to be a deeply held sense of outrage over Auckland Transport’s plans to remove these trees. Many people, including ourselves to an extent, who normally wouldn’t feel so passionate about the loss of six trees (after all there are a whole heap more of them a bit further along Great North Road) are up in arms over the plans. While Auckland Transport continue to argue the removal is necessary, it feels like only a matter of time before they change their mind and try to find a compromise.

So what gives here? What is it about this particular issue that has struck a nerve so deeply?Part of the issue of course, is that the trees are pretty amazing:


However, I think as much of the angst has come about because of the way in which Auckland Transport has gone about this project and some of the broader issues with the project itself.

Looking first at process, a few months back Public Address carried a post by Jolisa Gracewood that outlined the absolute clusterf*ck that had come about through the consenting process – with most people who made submissions being very unfairly denied the right to have those submissions taken into account. Here’s an extract:

It has come to the commissioners attention from the hearing today that your submission has been lodged on the wrong process (there were two for this hearing – A resource consent and a notice of requirement) and the Commissioners will be unable to take it into account when making their decisions.  This is addressed in the Council’s report on the applications which was included in the agenda circulated before the hearing.

The Commissioners think it’s fair to advise each of the submitters concerned in advance of their attendance so they can elect whether to attend or not given that they will have to travel into the city and pay for parking etc.  They are happy to hear from you, however it is not legally possible to switch a submission from one of the processes to the other.

The commissioners will be happy to explain this more tomorrow if it doesn’t quite make sense as this effects a number of submitters, they just feel it’s fair to let you know before showing up.

This didn’t make sense to me, so I asked for more information. I was told that the mistake had been mentioned in the Hearing Agenda. Sure enough, there on page 921:

It is also noted that a number of submissions have been incorrectly lodged against resource consent application ref R/VCC/2013/4724/1 (which is the s127 variation to conditions of the regional consent for Stormwater Management – Quality, pursuant to Rule H.4.14.3.1 of the PAUP). All submissions should have been lodged referencing the Notice of Requirement for Alternation to Designation Plan Modification PA371. In any case, all submissions have been reviewed and reported on the project jointly.

In other words, a number of submissions had mistakenly used the reference number for a stormwater issue (specifically, how to handle the stormwater issues from the extra 762m2 of impervious area created if the trees are removed), instead of the reference number notifying intent to remove the trees. Moreover, “Resource Consent” was the wrong phrase, “Notice of Requirement” the correct one.

The post outlines how it was completely clear which application submitters were intending to comment on, yet nothing was changed to fix the matter and therefore most people were not able to have their opinions heard on the application. Really really dodgy.

The second issue is that the project itself is a dog. Even if there weren’t any trees being removed, what Auckland Transport is proposing to do here it terrible, dangerous and belongs a 1960s traffic engineering handbook, rather than a redesigned intersection of the 21st century. If you are walking between the St Lukes overbridge and MOTAT/Western Springs Park, you will potentially have not one, not two but three “beg buttons” you’ll have to push to get across:

st-lukes-3begbuttons

Obviously the intersection needs another pedestrian leg across Great North Road on its city side. Why haven’t we got that in the design? Who knows – more lazy engineering from Auckland Transport seems like the only plausible answer here.

Lazy engineering comes to mind when Auckland Transport start to describe why the trees can’t be saved. Back to the recent press release:

Auckland Transport would not have supported the application to remove six Pohutukawa trees from Great North Road, if there had been any other viable option, but all engineering experts agreed that there was not.

No other viable option? As Patrick pointed out in his post, what about sending the walking/cycling path behind the trees? Speaking of cycling, AT still continue the absolute lie that this is all about providing cycle lanes to the St Lukes Rd bridge. Perhaps I’m going blind because I can’t see a single cycle lane being added on Gt North Rd – because in my book a shared path doesn’t count. In fact why go to all the bother to removal the trees and not install best practice separated cycle lanes.

Carrying on, what about only having two citybound lanes on Great North Road instead of three (after all, only two lanes will ever feed into it at one time)? What about having only a single left-turn lane from Great North Road into St Lukes Road? Of course there would be trade-offs with all these options, but none of this analysis has been made public – aside from a few seconds in the PM peak hour at some point in the future that apparently will be saved by having a squillion lanes through here. AT should be confident enough in their analysis that they should release it all to the public tomorrow so we can see exactly what they’ve considered and why it’s been ruled out.

So I actually think it’s these wider issues which sit behind much of the passion over this issue. And frustration with Auckland Transport’s absolute shoddiness. Running a shoddy consenting process, undertaking a shoddy assessment of alternatives, proposing a shoddy outcome for pedestrians in a very busy pedestrian area.

It’s just shoddy, and that pisses us off.

Of Experts, Damned Lies, and Pohutukawa

I have just returned from an extremely dispiriting experience. A room full of people including representatives from Local Boards, David Shearer the local MP, and many extremely frustrated members of the public were attempting to discuss the fate of the St Lukes Pohutukawa Six with a bunch of engineers from AT, NZTA, and the private sector. To no avail.

The meeting [which apparently wasn’t a meeting; but I’ll come to that later] was run by AT’s Howard Marshall, who despite an unfortunately arrogant air for such a role at least had the courtesy and courage to introduce himself, unlike the rest of the state and city apparatchiks and their subcontractors [who, for example, was the white haired man sitting with the public who summoned Marshall mid meeting into a whispered private conference from which he emerged even more defensive and inflexible?].

Marshall was determined that no discussion would take place, the commissioners had spoken, and as far as he was concerned that was all that mattered. A degree of self-serving pedantry that we have seen before on this matter. So here was a room full of the public faced with a public servant who somehow decided that the best way to get this beastly business over with was to define it out of existence; ‘this is not a public meeting’ he droned, over and over. The word ‘Kafka’ was soon being muttered in the row behind me as he answered very specific questions about the placement of lanes with his view on the metaphysics of this non-meeting.

But faced with the relatively straight-forward question about process he reached for new technique: ‘Could’, he was asked, ‘AT change its mind about destroying the trees if it found another way to deliver sufficient transport outcomes?’

Frozen silence.

Perhaps he was malfunctioning? Or was it just an absurd question to put to a Traffic Engineer? Could their work ever be improved? How could that be; look around this city – is it not an image of heavenly perfection? Or rather was he caught between admitting that they don’t have to do this, which is clearly true, AT change their minds frequently enough, and knowing that he was supposed to the hold the line against even the slightest hint that AT could stop this action by any means short of an order from the Environment Court? Yes.

St Lukes Masterplan

This all would be funny if weren’t for the miserably disingenuous document we were all given at the start of the non-meeting [presumably not-written and not-printed].

AT regrets’, it solemnly intones, ‘that the trees will be lost’ [lost; how careless!] ‘but a major benefit is that they will make way for cycle lanes to the motorway overbridge and for an extended buslanes and bus priority measures in Great North Rd’.

Ahhh so that’s it. It’s all those cycleways and buslanes… I see now, multi-laned bus priority and proper separated cycle lanes in every direction then? Marshall doubled down on this saying that the project is all about the great cycling, walking, and Public Transport outcomes.

Now really this has to stop. This is actually just lying. Shocking. Brazen. Barefaced lying; do they think we can’t see? Well in fact it is a bit hard to see. There was some considerable disagreement in the room about just how many traffic lanes we are getting across here. I make it 19 through the guts of it, including off ramps, and true, one of these is, briefly, a bright stripe of green for buses. One. The Traffic Engineer next to me thought he got to 17. But either way to characterise this project as anything other than a giant clusterfuck of autodependency is clearly wildly inaccurate. This is beyond double-down, this is gazillion-down. As is clear from the plan above, and despite the careful rendering of the gardening in rich tones to leap off the page and distract from the orgy of tarmac, the overwhelming majority of this part of the planet is now to be expensively dedicated to nothing but motoring. The World’s Most Drivable City. Place-Breaking.

There is, it’s true, proposed to be a new ‘shared path’, which of course is a footpath for both cyclists and pedestrians, where the six Pohutukawas are currently. A wide footpath is exactly what there is now, but under the limbs of those glorious trees. So how is a new one with only new smaller trees nearby an improvement? And why do they have to move it to where the trees are now? It couldn’t be because of the new double slip lane that AT insist on putting where the existing path is, could it? [never once mentioned by Marshall]. To claim that trees have to go for the ‘cycle lane’ [which isn’t even a cycle lane], but not because of the extra traffic lane is beyond disingenuous and is. really. just. lying.

All AT Experts Agree.

And as is clear from the following Tweet sent by the trees themselves, if it was really a matter of just finding space for a shared path then of course it could go behind the trees either through the car park as a shared space, or where there is currently mown grass under the trees. Not difficult to spot and design for an engineer of any competence, surely.

Behind the trees Behind the trees II

They must have considered this because our text informs us ‘AT would not proceed with the application to remove the trees… if there had been any other viable option, but all AT experts agreed that there was not’ Oh dear. Was this option considered he was asked? Of course, waving his hand dismissively saying it was presented to MOTAT and other local stakeholders that carparking would have to be removed to achieve this and apparently they all agreed that that couldn’t be allowed to happen. Delivered with the pained expression of a man explaining obvious things to a group of dimwitted children.

Fox in charge of the chicken coop. It is clear that this process is, frankly, rubbish.

Consider now how the pedestrian amenity in this ‘upgrade’ is to become more glorious by the removal of a direct route across Great North Rd. Once complete, any motorist lured to the lagoon of parking between the new Supersized SH16 and the new Supersized Great North Rd [or other actual pedestrians] will have to make three separate applications to the beg-buttons for permission to migrate from island to island to get to MOTAT or Western Springs. Should take about a week; or perhaps people will feel the hopelessness of this fate and either chance a gap in the traffic or just hurl themselves under a passing SUV….

So I call bullshit, AT, on any claim that this plan does anything except facilitate and promote further motorised vehicle use, and I don’t include buses in this. That they are intermittent buslanes on GNR hardly makes it a PT oriented project. That is the very least that the duplication of this road with SH16 should have long ago provided. Where is the North Western Busway: The Rapid transit line for this route for all those new citizens in the north west? The amenity that we know is the best way to keep the demand on the motorway from tripping into overload [from both the success of the Northern Busway, and theory]. Of the billions being spent on this massive project a couple metres of Kermit on GNR doesn’t give AT/NZTA any kind of figleaf to hide their Kardashian-scaled tarmac-fest behind.

But I digress, it is of course beyond AT’s engineers’ reach to fix the whole scope of the SH16 works, but still do they have to display their professional myopia quite so thoroughly on the small section of this massive but conceptually retrograde project in their care? And lie to us, and god knows to themselves, that they are really building a great new world for cyclists, pedestrians, and PT users?

‘Making travel by cycle and bus more efficient and convenient is consistent with AT’s drive to encourage Public Transport use. This will bring long-term benefits as more people choose alternative modes of transport to the car.’

Butter wouldn’t melt.

The withholding of one short traffic lane on GRN is all that is needed.

The double slip lane onto the bridge is not worth losing these trees for, but even if it were, why are there three east bound lanes opposite?  Two lanes turn from the bridge city bound onto GNR, and two lanes continue straight trough the intersection from west on GNR, one a disappearing buslane. That each of these traffic light cycles needs to leap from two lanes to three looks like mad super redundancy to this observer. Or at least having only two lanes for the length of the double slip lane opposite looks like a reasonable compromise as it would mean we could keep those trees. It’s just the reduction of this massive scheme by one lane for a short distance that resolves the issue. Can they really not manage that? Can they not see how this would also help conceal the full extent of the over-build here; would improve their project on every level?

But of course here we get to the real issue. I accuse those responsible for this outcome of professional incompetence. For they certainly are exhibiting it. What I mean, I suppose, is that they are being incompetent humans, more than incompetent traffic engineers. For in the extremely reduced definition of what they consider to be their job; maximising vehicle traffic flow through the monotonic provision of ever more lane supply and minimisation of ‘friction’ [anything, like pedestrian crossings, trees, whatever, to slow vehicles], they are efficient enough. But really should this job so defined ever exist? In isolation, that is, of course we want and need dedicated engineers, but can we as a city, as a species, afford to allow them this crazy disassociation of their task from the rest of life? Everyone gets benefit from those trees, not least of all those thousands of vehicle users that pass by them, or park under them. And they are now the only bit of civility and glory in an otherwise overkill of pavement. They are irreplaceable. And valuable beyond the dubious virtue of providing traffic flow predicted to be there, in 2026 no less, based on traffic models that are constantly shown to be wrong. Do these men see their job so autistically that they only value that tsunami of tarmac at any cost?

By rights these trees should still be there when both Mr Marshall and I are compost, our constituent atoms returned to make other life forms, in the great mystery of it all. They are a link to those people of The Great Depression who planted them, and even further back to when these trees and their cousins dominated this land. They are an invaluable link with the past through the present and into the future. How can it be that we grant people the right to blithely cut that link for one more lane in a world of nothing but traffic lanes?

January Waterview update

Russell Brown from Public Address took a ride out to Lincoln Rd the other day and in the process captured some of the immense works going on.

Head over to his post to see some more photos.

This also coincided with news that the project is now reached the halfway point with even the NZTA calling the new interchange “towering”

Construction of interchange ramps that will link the Northwestern and Southwestern Motorways (State Highways 16 & 20) when Auckland’s Waterview Connection opens in 2017 has reached the halfway point.

The last of the precast concrete beams were placed recently on the second and longest of the four ramps that drivers will use to get to and from the Waterview tunnels. The 500m-long ramp will be used by drivers traveling east on the Northwestern Motorway to access the southbound tunnel.

The NZ Transport Agency’s Acting Highway Manager, Mieszko Iwaskow, says the four ramps are on three levels and, in total, add up to 1.7 kilometres of viaduct structure.

“They make a very large project within the already huge Waterview Connection project.”

Mr Iwaskow says the ramps are taking shape above the Northwestern Motorway, one of the busiest sections of motorway in Auckland, with minimal disruption to traffic.

“This is thanks to the yellow self-launching gantry that is a familiar sight for commuters on this section of motorway as it travels backwards and forwards to fetch, lift and then place the concrete beams into place for the ramps.”

The gantry – named Dennis after a project worker who died of cancer in 2013 – eliminates the need for conventional cranes which would have had to be moved into place at the start of each work shift and then taken away before the morning traffic peaks.

“There is no doubt that Dennis is perfect for this job,” Mr Iwaskow says. “It saves time, reduces traffic disruption and avoids the need to use cranes in environmentally sensitive areas of the Oakley Creek estuary.”

Having constructed two of the four interchange ramps, Dennis will soon start work on the highest of the four ramps. It will carry traffic leaving the northbound Waterview tunnel towards the city centre and climb 22 metres above the ground at its highest point.

It is due to be finished by October, leaving just one ramp to be completed in 2016. The ramp that drivers coming from central Auckland will use was completed last May.

The team behind the project have also recently released a few new time-lapse videos. The November one showing them getting ready to relaunch the TBM

And the December one showing it starting the second tunnel as well as the ventilation building at the southern end starting to take shape.

And from the NZTA’s project page, here’s what the inside of the tunnels look like.

2014 – A Year in Review Part 3 – Roads

In the third in my series of posts wrapping up the year I will look at what’s happened with roads this year.

Roads of National Significance

The RoNS have continued as they did last year with one notable exception.

Western Ring Route

The Western Ring Route works are in full flight now as will be evidenced to anyone who drives along SH16 with roadworks in place from east of Western Springs all the way through Northwest of Lincoln Rd from 5 separate projects.

  • St Lukes Interchange
  • Waterview Connection
  • Causeway upgrade
  • Te Atatu Interchange
  • Lincoln Rd Interchange

The TBM working on the Waterview connection has broken through with the first tunnel and in December made a start on the second one. At the same time the most visible part of the project has been the large yellow gantry has been building towering ramps that will connect the tunnels to SH16 in each direction.

Over the next year we should finally see the Lincoln Rd section completed and I imagine significant progress on the other projects – although they are still a few years from completion.

Puhoi to Wellsford

In 2014 the NZTA were issued with consent to build the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway – a road even the NZTA’s analysis says is only really busy during holiday periods. Amazingly we’re still yet to see any real economic analysis for the project which is likely because it’s terrible based on the work we saw before the government named it a priority. The government of course continue to claim it’s all about the economic development of Northland despite the existing toll road – which saved more time than this motorway will – not making any difference.

Confirmed route

Over 2015 we’re likely to see the NZTA working towards a PPP to get this project built however it’s not likely we’ll see any construction start.

Basin Reserve Flyover

Perhaps the biggest surprise of 2014 was the Board of Inquiry declining the NZTA’s application to build a flyover around the edge of the Basin Reserve. In the end the commissioners hearing the case concluded the impact on the local community from having a massive flyover was just too much after it was able to be shown that most of the benefits the NZTA claimed the road would provide were actually attributable to other projects.  The decision was embarrassing for the NZTA and the government seeing as it was using the governments new fast track process which means the decision can only be appealed on points of law – which the NZTA are doing.

Basin Bridge Image 1

I’m not aware if a date has yet been set for the appeal but it is likely to be later next year.

Transmission Gully

Also in Wellington, the first transport PPP was signed in July for the construction and operation of Transmission Gully, another project with a horrific business case. Initial works should have started by now however won’t really ramp up till next year. The PPP will see the NZTA paying $125 million a year for 25 years once the project has been completed. Unlike many PPPs that failed overseas, for the consortium building the road there is little risk as all the demand risk sits with the NZTA, in other words we pay providing the road is open – and if it is damaged from a something like an earthquake we have to pay at least some of the costs of that too.

Other RoNS

The other RoNS projects in the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Christchurch have continued along. I’m not sure of the progress of all of them however the Tauranga Eastern Link is meant to be completed in 2015.

Auckland Motorway Projects

In 2013 the government announced a series of additional motorway projects for Auckland. The widening of the Northern Motorway between Upper Harbour and Greville Dr has just been completed and in November started consultation on ideas for further changes to that section including a motorway to motorway interchange between SH1 and SH18. Some of the ideas are absolutely massive in scale such as concept 3.

Northern Corridor Improvements Concept 3

Of the other projects, works to grade separate Kirkbride Rd moved ahead and earlier this month the NZTA announced the contract had been signed with construction starting in January

We haven’t heard much about the other accelerated project which will see the southern motorway from Manukau to Papakura widened but I would expect we will do in 2015.

In addition to the accelerated projects the NZTA has now made a start on widening SH1 Northbound between Ellerslie-Panmure Highway and Greenlane – a project that’s been on the cards for a while and for which the Ellerslie Station platform was narrowed a few years ago to accommodate.

Accelerated Regional Roads

In addition to the RoNS, and to shore up their support from some rural communities, this year the government announced a spend up of over $200 million on a number of regional state highway projects that can’t get funding due to it being sucked up by the RoNS. The Funding for these projects is coming from the proceeds of asset sales the government has undertaken. Some of the projects appear to be of low value however not all are.

Govt Accelerated Rural Road Package

AMETI

Auckland Transport started the year with the opening of the new Panmure station and in November they opened Te Horeta Rd which is the new road running alongside the rail line and Panmure station from Mt Wellington Highway to Morrin Rd.

East West Link Connections

In October both AT and the NZTA launched consultation on ideas for the East West Link after calling off a proposal for a motorway through Mangere right at the beginning of the year. They haven’t announced the results yet but I’m fairly certain either option C or D has been picked as the option they are proceeding with.

EW Option - Option D

Mill Rd

In November AT announced they have come up with a route for the Mill Rd corridor and will be working towards securing a designation for it. The most disappointing aspect for me about the project – other than some of the case for it has likely been destroyed by the fast tracking of the SH1 widening – is that even with a brand new corridor, AT are still designing a crap outcome with features like unprotected cycle lanes or shared paths and pedestrian/cycle unfriendly roundabouts.

We’re still driving less

One positive trend I have started to notice is our transport institutions are starting to take notice of is that we’re driving less. In the last few months in particular it’s started to be mentioned in publications such as the Briefing to the Incoming Minister and in research papers.

ResizedImage600304-FutureDemand-Diagram1

What have I missed?

Waterview Connection September and October Time-lapse

Here are the September and October time-lapse videos from the Waterview Connection project.

And the October one showing the TBM being turned around.

Waterview Breakthrough

On Monday Alice the Tunnel Boring Machine broke through at Waterview after tunnelling for the last 10 months.

Waterview TBM Breakthrough

And here’s a video of it happening.

One of the things that is really impressive is just how accurate the machine is with it being within 10mm of where they planned for it to exit. All up almost 400,000m³ of spoil was removed from the 2.4km tunnel and just over 12,000 concrete tunnel lining segments have been installed.

Here’s the press release that goes with it which provides a lot more information

The first of the twin road tunnels that will connect Auckland’s Southwestern and Northwestern motorways as part of the NZ Transport Agency’s Waterview Connection project has been built.
Alice, the tunnel boring machine, broke into daylight this afternoon, at the end of her 10-month 2.4km underground journey from Owairaka to Waterview.

The tunnel she has built is the tenth largest diameter tunnel in the world and the longest road tunnel in New Zealand. Once opened in early 2017, it will carry three lanes of southbound traffic up to 40 metres below Avondale and Waterview in west Auckland.

The NZ Transport Agency’s Highways Manager for Auckland, Brett Gliddon, says the tunnel’s completion is a significant milestone for the $1.4bn project to build the new 5km, six-lane motorway link from the Great North Road interchange at Waterview to Maioro Street in Mt Roskill and complete the long awaited Western Ring Route.

“This is a fantastic achievement. Our construction partners on the Well-Connected Alliance completed the breakthrough safely and ahead of schedule,” Mr Gliddon says.

“It is a huge engineering feat for New Zealand, one that is attracting worldwide attention. It demonstrates that with local and international experience and expertise, we can deliver infrastructure to equal the best in the world.”

Mr Gliddon says Alice will now be turned around to bore the northbound tunnel.
“While it is not unusual internationally to turn a tunnel boring machine, what is extraordinary about this turn is the sheer size of the machine and the constricted space in which the manoeuvre will take place.”

At 90m long and weighing 3,100 tonnes, Alice is big. The cutting head and its three trailing gantries will be disconnected and each piece taken one at a time from the completed tunnel and turned.

Only when all of Alice’s parts are in place and reconnected – in early 2015 – will tunnelling resume to construct the second tunnel.

The conveyor system that removes excavated material and other services required for the machine’s operation will also be turned and will follow Alice as she journeys south. By the completion of the second tunnel, they will extend the length of both tunnels – nearly 5km.
A fourth gantry, which operates independently of Alice to install a culvert on the floor of the tunnel, will be the last to be turned. This culvert will carry the services needed for operation of the tunnels once they have been completed.

The machine’s drive south from Waterview to Owairaka is expected to be completed in about October next year. Approximately a year of work will then remain to complete the mechanical and electrical fit-out of the tunnels, including completing ventilation buildings at both ends and constructing 16 cross passages to connect the tunnels.

The entire project – which also involves building the surface connections to the existing motorways, 9km of new cycleway, new community amenities such as walkways, playgrounds and skateparks, and planting approximately 150,000 trees and shrubs – is due to be completed in early 2017.

The Waterview Connection is one of five projects to complete the Western Ring Route as an alternative motorway to SH1 through central Auckland and across the Auckland Harbour Bridge. It is prioritised by the Government as one of its Roads of National Significance because of the contribution it will make to New Zealand’s prosperity by underpinning economic growth and sustainable development for Auckland and its regional neighbours.

The 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.

As well as designing and building the Waterview Connection, the alliance will operate and maintain the 5km motorway for 10 years from its completion.

Also if you’re interested in how the TBM will be turned around, this gives some more info. Click to enlarge (2.8MB)

Poster Waterview TBM Turnaround

Waterview Connection July Time Lapse

The latest time lapse from the Waterview Connection project

The TBM is getting very close to the end of the first tunnel with it less than 300m to go.

Waterview Connection video and images

The latest video from the team digging the tunnels at Waterview, this time with the main focus on the spoil from the tunnel which is sent to help fill up the old Wiri quarry.

I guess there’s probably not a great deal of point in showing a time-lapse from inside the tunnel anymore seeing as they’ve already done that a few times and it would all look the same now. As a reminder this is what the inside of the tunnel looks like and the men walking though it help to give a sense of the size of it.

Waterview inside tunnel

As of three weeks ago here is how far the TBM had progressed and it is expected to reach Waterview in September.

Progress Bar - July 14

And here are some photos from June which helps to highlight the immense size of the project.

At the Northern End

The ramps and pillars look small from here but from ground level are massive

With the exception of the cycleway this whole area is really a massive pedestrian dead zone

At the Southern End

The space for a Mt Roskill Spur has clearly been left under the Maioro St Interchange but hasn’t been built under Richardson Rd (but space has been left for it)

More here.

Waterview Shared Path

Auckland Transport is holding an open day to discuss their plans for a shared path between Waterview and Mt Albert which was required as part of the Board of Inquiry for the Waterview Connection project.

Auckland Transport is about to unveil plans for a new walking and cycling link between Waterview and Mt Albert.

Delivered as part of the Waterview Connection project, the shared path will add to Auckland’s growing cycling and walking network, connecting with the north-western (SH16) cycle route and existing shared paths to Onehunga and New Lynn.

Auckland Transport has investigated a range of options, talked with property owners and developed a concept design for the path. We’re now ready to show our designs to the public, so come along and give us your thoughts.

The Waterview shared path will be around 2.4km long and around 3.5 metres wide, running from Alan Wood Reserve off New North Road, following the route of Oakley Creek and connecting with Great North Road (map attached).

Two new bridges will be built along the route – one across Oakley Creek and the other over the western rail line – to connect communities to the path. There will also be easy access to the path at various points along the route, such as Phyllis Reserve and the Unitec campus.

Details on the Waterview shared path will be revealed at two public open days – the first on Wednesday 23 July, 3pm to 7pm, at Metro Football Club, in Phyllis Reserve, Mt Albert; and the second on Thursday 24 July, 3pm to 7pm, at Avondale Baptist Church, 1288 New North Road, Avondale. The project team will be on hand to answer questions.

AT’s Community Transport manager Matthew Rednall says the shared path will be great for the local community.

“Not only will it mean safe traffic-free links and improved access to local schools, colleges and other community facilities, it’ll be a great place to get some exercise,” he says.

“The path will be well lit and have a low gradient to make it safe and easy to use.”

Construction is expected to begin in late 2016 and take around 12 months to complete.

This is the route the path will take

Waterview Cycleway Route

I’m please to see this being progressed however there are already a number of questions in my head about this project.

  • Why is it only starting construction in late 2016. This seems especially odd considering how fast the NZTA seems to be moving on the Glen Innes to Tamaki Dr Cycleway which has construction starting in a few months.
  • The route seems more about recreation than transport with the indirect route it takes and sharp slow speed turns – AT have said that this is to provide links to the community, not build through the sports grounds and that closer to the creek isn’t suitable for building.
  • Will AT be installing lights on the intersection of Soljak Pl/New North Rd/Bollard Ave? New North Rd is a high volume four lane arterial road that without any kind of crossing is going to be difficult to cross.
  • We’ve started seeing a lot of design being incorporated in pedestrian/cycle bridges in recent years, the concept for the bridge across the Oakley Creek that AT have on their website seems to shun that completely.

Waterview Cycleway - Alford Bridge artist concept