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

Waterview Connection April Timelapse

The latest timelapse video from the Waterview connection project.

Waterview Connection March Timelapse

The latest timelapse video for the Waterview Connection. Regardless of your views on the motorway, it’s a bloody impressive piece of kit boring out the tunnels.

Just another $500 million

The herald this week ran a large piece on the projects under construction as part of the Western Ring Route (WRR) including aerial photos of the progress. The projects covered were:

  • The Waterview Connection breaking it down by:
    • The Southern end
    • The Northern end
    • The Waterview interchange
  • The raising and widening of the Northwestern Motorway Causeway
  • The Te Atatu Interchange
  • The St Lukes Interchange
  • The Lincoln Rd Interchange

But the thing that got me about the article was this part

The 4.8km link between the Southwestern and Northwestern Motorways will fill the last-but-one gap in the 48km Western Ring Route. It will bypass the city to the west and link Manukau, Auckland, Waitakere and North Shore.

All that will be left to complete, by about 2019, will be a $500 million-plus motorway-to-motorway interchange at the northern end of the route.

It’s made to sound like it’s some sort of minor completion task but in reality at $500 million it would be the second most expensive road project in Auckland after the Waterview tunnels. What’s more it’s all just to satisfy some transport planners desire to make a map look prettier.

SH18-SH1 map gap

The project is more than twice the cost of a similar junction at Manukau built just a few years ago. It’s even almost enough to get a fully offline busway all the way to Silverdale – not that it’s needed that far yet (but NEX services to Silverdale are). It will be eclipsed in price any time soon by $800 million Puhoi to Warkworth motorway (if it goes ahead). 

Further it’s also technically incorrect to say that’s the final project for the Western Ring Route as there is still an estimated $100 million upgrade of the Royal Rd interchange (and associated widening either side of it) that will be left to do. Also needing to be included are the costs of widening the Northern and Southern motorways either side of the western ring route which the NZTA say are needed to handle the traffic from the WRR.

All up over the span of the roughly 13 years that we will have actually been building it, the Western Ring Route will costing us almost $4 billion. That’s on top of other major motorway projects that have been/are going on like the Victoria Park Tunnel, Newmarket Viaduct replacement and the myriad of projects the government announced last year they would fast track. Here’s a breakdown of the costs of the various WRR Projects

WRR Costs

It’s the ability to really break some of these mega projects down into small chunks that I think has been instrumental in Auckland forging ahead with so many motorway projects ahead of other transport investments. Projects like the CRL have suffered because they require the entire thing to built before they become usable and the price tag then looks scary. However spreading out the cost of the CRL over the years it will take to build shows that annually it’s about the same as what we’ve been pouring into these motorway projects. (note: cost of CRL in today’s dollars is ~$1.8 billion other costs often quoted include extra trains for an inefficient operating pattern and future inflation).

All of this makes me wonder how different the public would have perceived these projects if upfront they had been told it would have cost almost $4 billion to build. Would public sentiment about what transport projects we should build be different if we could have had a more realistic discussion about how much things cost.

Waterview Tunnel Photos

Reader and photographer Jeff Smith has been working with the Well Connected Alliance – the consortium building the Waterview Tunnels to document the project. He has just released these photos and more of some of the progress to date. The tunnel is now about 150m in length

Waterview tunnel 1

Spoil being loaded onto the conveyor.

Waterview tunnel spoil

Tunnel segment about to be lifted into place

Waterview tunnel segments

A section of the TBM that looks a bit like a spaceship from a sci-fi film.

Waterview tunnel spaceship

Thanks to Jeff for letting me run with the photos and there are a heap more on his site. If you’re interested in the project at all then it’s definitely worth a look. http://albums.jeffsmithphotography.co.nz/life-underground

Hendon Ave Bridge

I love the amount of effort the NZTA have put into the design of pedestrian and cycling bridges over motorways in the last few years. The renders below are of what the Hendon Ave bridge is expected to look like.

Hendon Ave Bridge

And here’s another picture of it.

Hendon Ave Bridge 2

The bridge is currently under construction.

2013: A year in review – Part 2

In Part 2 of my 2013 year in review I’m going to look at transport other than PT so that includes walking/cycling and roads.

Walking/Cycling

2013 has been a bit of a mix when it comes to active modes. There have been some good things happen however in my opinion simply not enough has been done and from what I’ve heard (but haven’t confirmed) Auckland Transport spent well less than they had in the budget for cycling which is extremely disappointing.

Most recently we’ve seen that the council has agreed to allow the Skypath to move to the next stage where the council officers will come up with an agreement on the project with the financial backers before going to a vote some time in 2014. If that part is approved the project will still need to go through a formal resource consent process. The project isn’t without it’s challenges however with some members of the local communities on either side of the bridge determined to fight the project at every stage.

Skypath aerial

We’ve seen work begin on the Grafton Gully cycleway and Westhaven promenade and cycleway. Along Beach Rd Auckland Transport have finally proposed a proper separated urban cycleway which will probably the first one in Auckland. My understanding is the consultation saw the project get a lot of support so it is likely to go ahead which is great. There have also been some great new pedestrian (and cycling) bridges opened this year including the stunning Pt Resolution Bridge and the Westgate Pedestrian and Cycle bridge which includes quite a fun set of sweeping curves (which were to solve a grade problem).

In the CBD we’ve seen the shared space at the eastern end of Fort St completed while one on Federal St between Wellesley and Victoria St is now under construction. We also had it confirmed that O’Connell St would become a shared space which was a good result after what was initially proposed in 2012. I believe construction on the O’Connell St shared space will begin in early 2014.

Despite the slow progress of walking and cycling infrastructure we have continued to see cycling numbers increase in the city – it’s becoming much more noticeable all over the place. AT have a series of automatic cyclist counters around the city which show this increase.

Dec 13 Cycling

Roads of National Significance

Waterview

Waterview took some big steps forward this year and the project is really in full swing. The massive TBM arrived in July and starting its tunnel boring in November following quite a good public open day on the project in October. I’m not sure how fare in it is now but about 1.5 weeks ago it was about 70m in with the entire machine almost completely underground. The video below from the TBM’s facebook page from just before Christmas showing some of the progress

Also part of the Western Ring Route is the works along SH16 and anyone who has travelled on the motorway in recent months will have seen just how much work is going on. The motorway is almost a constant work-site from east of Carrington Rd through to west of Lincoln Rd. The one patch that isn’t – Te Atatu interchange – will likely start construction in 2014 while we will probably see work beginning on the St Lukes Rd interchange soon too.

Puhoi to Wellsford

Over 2013 we’ve seen the work on the Puhoi to Warkworth section advance culminating in the project being lodged with the Environmental Protection Agency late this year as the NZTA tries to obtain the designation. One of the funniest things I found about this is that despite all of the talk that the project was needed as a lifeline to Northland – all of the supporting documents effectively confirmed that the major traffic issues only really occurred at Holiday times (when many businesses are shut down anyway). We also found out this year the project will almost certainly be built by way of a PPP. There are different forms of PPP and not all are necessarily bad however the way this road (and others like it) will be built will see us paying huge ongoing sums to the private funders with little to no risk for them as they will be paid providing the road is open.

P2W Monthly Traffic Volumes

By contrast to the Puhoi to Warkworth section, there has been a deafening silence on Warkworth to Wellsford section. The last we heard the engineers were still unable to find a viable route for an expressway standard road. At this stage I would be quite surprised if it ever happened as originally envisioned and an operation lifesaver type solution is probably more likely – perhaps extending that kind of upgrade further north to Whangarei.

Other RoNS

We’ve seen work continue on the other RoNS projects. In Wellington Transmission Gully is being pushed ahead despite performing poorly in economic assessments. It will be the first project to use the PPP model that will also be used on Puhoi to Warkworth and it is expected the NZTA will announce the outcome of the process in early 2014. Recently we’ve also seen more about the NZTA’s attempt to get approval to build a flyover around the Basin Reserve. An independent review highlighted a number of issues with how the preferred solution was chosen.

Much more quietly work has continued on the RoNS projects in Tauranga, the Waitako and Christchurch.

Government motorway package

In June alongside the announcement that they will support the CRL, the government also announced an entire package of other road projects for Auckland, some that saw motorway projects previously planned for 20-30 years-time brought forward. Like with all big road transport projects these days there are actually some useful projects in the mix but they invariably get lumped in with some real dogs

Govt Transport Projects

The first of the projects to come out of this fast tracked list of projects was officially kicked off a few weeks ago and will see an extra land added northbound between Upper Harbour Highway and Greville Rd. It is one of those projects that is actually worthwhile but some of the other parts proposed in the area including full motorway to motorway ramps fall into the overkill category.

We are likely to hear a lot more about the progress of these various projects in the coming year.

East-West Link

One of the projects on the fast tracked list that has had a lot of attention, especially in the last few months has been the East-West Link. This has been another excellent example of there definitely being an issue that needs to be addressed but with some of the solutions being equivalent to trying to smash a nut with a sledgehammer (or something even larger). Auckland Transport came up with four different options with the worst by far being Option 4 which would have seen a motorway rammed through the suburbs of Mangere at a cost of many hundreds of homes. AT were planning on going to public consultation on the idea in the middle of 2014 – after the time when it was planned they would go to the government for funding for the project.

East-West Option 4

Thankfully due to public pressure Auckland Transport backed down and has now agreed to talk to and work with the local communities that are affected, not just the business communities like they had been doing. I would expect the East-West Link to be fairly prominent over the coming year.

Funding – Consensus building group

Of course paying for the massive wish-list of transport projects is going to be a difficult thing – unless we change the wish-list. To try and work out how we might do a Consensus Building Group was set up by the Mayor. The idea was to get representatives from different parts of society – including various business and advocacy groups – to sit down and work through the various funding options. The ended up on the conclusion that the below two options were the best ones but that option two would probably be better at managing travel demand. It was also the option overwhelmingly supported in the public consultation.

CBG options

In my opinion the process was fairly flawed as the CBG members were required to work off the assumption that the list of projects was not able to be changed to get the best outcomes, even if some of the options may have made some projects unnecessary e.g. if road pricing reduced travel demand then some of the roading projects might not be needed therefore reducing the overall amount we need to raise.

Other

Like with the PT projects, we’ve also seen a range of smaller things going on:

  • Work on Tiverton-Wolverton has continued and should hopefully be finished fairly soon (it’s looking fairly advanced already).
  • AMETI has been quietly progressed, the primary focus has been on the new road alongside the rail line however next year I expect we will start to see work in other areas – for example I hear the Reeves Rd flyover will be fast-tracked
  • Late this year we saw plans from AT for a massive upgrade and widening of Lincoln Rd. It’s a project I’m mixed about it, the road is a nightmare and needs improvement however some aspects are insane like intersections over 9 lanes in width.
  • Penlink has once again risen on the agenda after being silent for almost three years. AT is apparently trying to hook the project into the same PPP as will be used for Puhoi to Warkworth.
  • I don’t know if it’s just my perception but though-out 2013 there seemed to be a lot more crashes on motorways that ended up causing massive system wide meltdowns.
  • A potentially $600m+ bridge between Weymouth and Karaka popped up during unitary plan discussions but was thankfully rubbed out with greenfield development being focussed around the rail line negating the need for it

Anything I miss?

Auctioning Alice for Charity

Congratulations to the NZTA for coming up with a really unique way to raise some money for charity.

Waterview Xmas gift for Philippines typhoon victims

The giant tunnel boring machine called Alice at Auckland’s Waterview Connection motorway project is at the centre of the workers’ initiative to raise money for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

People will have a chance to have a “date” with Alice by bidding for tickets on the Trade Me website for the opportunity to visit the machine. Four separate auctions are planned, and the proceeds from them will be donated to the Red Cross Typhoon Haiyan appeal.

The NZ Transport Agency’s Highways Manager for Auckland, Tommy Parker, says the auction was an idea from the Waterview project’s workforce, which includes 10 from the Philippines.

“The devastation and suffering caused by Typhoon Haiyan has hit home with the project’s very multi-national team. One engineer had an agonising eight-day wait to find out if his family was safe in the Philippines, and another ‘s wife still has not heard from her parents and four brothers who are living in one of the worst-hit areas.”

Mr Parker says the four successful bidders on Trade Me will get a once-in-a-lifetime tour of the project, which is the largest roading and most challenging project ever undertaken in New Zealand. The tour will include a visit to Alice, who will then be well underground on the first leg of her two-year journey from Owairaka to Waterview and back. Ticket holders will be guided by internationally experienced tunnelling experts.

Waterview Connection workers have already donated several hundred dollars from their own pockets to the typhoon appeal, which is being matched dollar for dollar by the Well-Connected Alliance delivering the project to complete the Western Ring Route.

Mr Parker says the auctions for dates with Alice will close on Sunday 15 December.

“We hope people will generously support this worthwhile appeal – a date with Alice will make a perfect Christmas gift.”

I doubt there are many times anywhere in the world where a member of the general public would have the opportunity to tour a live tunnelling machine.

The auctions can be found here.

More Lessons From Bilbao

On my recent trip to the cities of northern Spain it was hard not to notice how thoughtfully every corridor was designed for all users as outline in this previous post. Of course this is completely unremarkable to the locals, it’s just obvious to them that:

1. The public realm must be built to accommodate all users, and

2. That safety for all is the first priority.

Well here’s another example from what I consider to be one of the most civilised urban places on earth, this is the Eskalduna Zubia, a bridge [Zubia] charged with the quotidian business of carrying a whole lot of traffic over the River Nervión that divides the city, shot on that same autumnal afternoon:

BILBAO BRIDGE_7227

Nothing much to see here; just like a typical four lane arterial in NZ, even a bit of a flush median, that use of roadspace that clearly obsesses Auckland Transport with its universal value. It’s not till you see what’s concealed by the dramatic steel structure on the right of frame that my interest in this Zubia starts to make sense:

BILBAO BRIDGE_7220

Securely separated from the traffic on the same bridge and even protected from the weather! No need to build a barrier between the cyclists and the pedestrians as there is so much width that contact is always easily avoided. The cantilevered roof makes for a completely structureless open side directing the walkers’ attention upstream away from the traffic [for those not staring at their phones]. As everywhere in Bilbao, cycling is not considered a dangerous activity so no one is forced to wear extreme safety equipment as if they are steeplejacks.

Here is an equivalent four lane bridge in inner Auckland, like the Eskalduna Zubia it is between two busy pedestrian and cycling generators; in this case the inner city Universities and the Domain/Parnell/hospital:

WELLESLEY ST_01

I’ve had to use Google maps for the image because it is illegal as well as impossible for anyone not in a moving motorised vehicle to go here. And from above:

WELLESLEY ST_02

There is nothing in this picture except total misery. It’s even laughably hopeless for the only mode its built for. Every time I have driven through here I marvel at its counterintuitive over-complication and the near uselessness it offers for all vehicle movements except the most simple motorway exiting. And of course it is pretty much murderous for anyone on foot or cycling; this glorious intervention in the name of movement efficiency turned a sylvan inner city glade into, at best, an insurmountable barrier and total aesthetic horror. People stay away even from the parts they are ‘allowed’ to be on. Like the once leafy and lovely Grafton Road. The slip lanes at every turn of every intersection make negotiating what footpaths there are there deadly and extremely frustrating to use.

Grafton Rd from Symonds St

Grafton Rd from Symonds St

I have discussed the waste and hopelessness that is the road engineering in Grafton Gully with many of those involved in its creation and they all cheerfully explain how dysfunctional the process was with Transit and Auckland City Council squabbling over who should pay for any amenity beyond these basic and clumsy roads and neither giving in. Transit arguing it is only responsible for  the cheapest way to move traffic and all else is someone else’s problem, and ACC arguing that as it is Transit’s works that are causing the problem they should include the fixes in the cost. I guess we can see who won that argument. NZTA [who inherited this mess but are of the institution that made it] are still happily wasting all this inner city real estate: It is neither being efficiently exploited nor have they returned it to the haven of solitude and clear air it once was for all Aucklanders. And of course it remains part of the fearsome rampart that is the ring of motorway Severance that hacks inner Auckland to shreds.

AK CBD

Here is the one piece of walking and cycling amenity on this whole section of upper Wellesley St:

WELLESLEY ST_1659

Yup that’s right, it’s a sign telling you that you can’t walk to that big park right in front of you without going, counterintuitively again, in some completely other direction for some considerably much longer time. I have had to help explain this to baffled european tourists staring at their smart phones showing a nice big park and the Museum right there…. ha, welcome to clean, green, oh wait…..

Grafton Gully and Symonds St Tunnel Plan 1950s

Grafton Gully and Symonds St Tunnel Plan 1950s

This is how it was sold to us by the first iteration of place-wreckers-by-motorway, it reads:

The Grafton Gully and nearby areas will be the focal point of of a network which will be among the most important in the Auckland Master Transport Plan. The original Grafton Bridge was merely built to span a bush clad gully. Among other things there will be a twin tunnel, nine chains long, with the rest “cut and cover” passes.

Well wouldn’t that have been good? Tunnelling instead of severing. It is a tragedy that not even short sections of these routes aren’t underground. It is time not only for NZTA to complete the range of movement modes across this route but also to make good on the promise to bury their horror as much as is possible so Auckland can get at least a small amount of functionality of this place back.

Let’s see what they do in Bilbao? Do they have motorways there?

Bilbao expressways in tunnels

Sure they do, and guess what?, a great deal of them are underground, especially under green space, in order to maintain surface continuity and and reduce severance.

The age of severing urban motorways and incomplete streets is well and truly over. Aucklanders have recently managed to stop one appalling new motorway, The Eastern Highway, and got the next one put substantially underground, Waterview. It is vital that we demand that the mistakes of the past are learned from as well as looking at other places that seem to have been able to do things well first time. But also insist that the broken pieces are fixed before our institutions engage in even more destruction.

There is little point in moving tin a little quicker through our city if we substantially harm that place and the quality of life for its inhabitants in the process, and at such high cost.

BILBAO BRIDGE_7222