Waterview Connection June update

The latest time-lapse and images from the huge Waterview Connection project. There is also a project update here.

Once again the images really highlight the vast scale of the new interchange being built at Waterview.

Waterview Aerial - June 15 - 1

Waterview Aerial - June 15 - 3

Waterview Aerial - June 15 - 4

The tunnel portal at the southern end

Waterview Aerial - June 15 - 2

And these are of the old Wiri Quarry which is being filled in with the muck from the tunnels is sent

Waterview Aerial - June 15 - 5

Waterview Aerial - June 15 - 6

Waterview Connection May Time-lapse

The latest few images and videos from the Waterview Connection Project.

And the East Tamaki pre-cast facility which has now finished producing 24,000 segments and it plus the machinery are now up for sale. It highlights just what a massive logistical challenge these big projects are and something that will need to be repeated for the CRL.

This image also shows the progress of the southern ventilation building while the image after it shows what it should eventually look like.

I hope AT are planning to do something similar time-lapse videos for when they start the CRL works

Waterview Connection April Time-lapse and Fly-through

There have been two new videos from the Waterview Connection project in recent days. One is the regular monthly time lapse update the project have been producing and this edition shows them building two temporary bridges from the two tunnels to the northern approach trench so they can move tunnel lining segments and other equipment into the second tunnel easier. It also shows more of the construction of the ventilation building going in at the southern end.

The second and far more impressive video is one that has been shared around quite a bit in recent days and shows a drone fly-through of the entire project including all the way through the tunnel. It really highlights just how long and large the tunnel is.

 

Of course the project was also hit this week by news that it received a faulty batch of concrete and will require remedial work – although it sounds like the processes that the project set up were instrumental in detecting the issue which also affected a number of other projects.

Waterview March Timelapse and Aerials

The latest timelapse and aerial shots from the Waterview Connection project

The completed Ernie Pinches Bridge

The completed Ernie Pinches Bridge

Waterview Aerial 2 - Apr 15

Waterview Aerial 3 - Apr 15

Waterview Aerial 4 - Apr 15

Waterview February Timelapse

The latest timelapse and photos from the Waterview Connection project.

Waterview Aerial 1 - Mar 15

Waterview Aerial 2 - Mar 15There’s also a newsletter update about the project here.

Waterview Connection January Timelapse

Here is the latest time-lapse video from the Waterview Connection Project

Some of the key highlights includes construction of the three sub levels of the Southern Ventilation Building, and the Great North Road Interchange and at the Northern Approach Trench Gantry 2.1 (Temporary Gantry) enters the tunnel.

Waterview Aerials

Some new aerial photos from the team building the Waterview Connection project which show the extent of it.

Waterview Aerial 1 Feb 15

Waterview Aerial 2  - Feb 15

Don’t you love the little stub road with cycle lanes on either side

 

Waterview Aerial 3 - Feb 15

Waterview Aerial 4 - Feb 15

Waterview Aerial 5 - Feb 15

It’s like a monument to the gods of motorway building

 

Waterview Aerial 6 - Feb 15

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?