Transport infrastructure generally helps to connect our communities with the rest of the city, making life easier. However in some cases, like with motorways and surface rail lines, it can also sever that connection by making it extremely difficult to get around without a car. Thankfully last week, for one community in the North West, that severance was reduced due to the opening of the Westgate pedestrian and cycle bridge which has taken roughly a year to build. Locals were clearly not keen on the previous option of a detour up to Hobsonville Rd, and many would simply run across the motorway. Sadly, in 2004 a schoolboy was struck and killed by a vehicle attempting this treacherous crossing.
The location of the new bridge is shown below:
I went to check it out yesterday – here’s what the finished product looks like from the Western (Westgate) side:
On the bridge itself (and it’s wider than it appears in this photo):
Due to the the height of the eastern side and the need for accessibility to people with bikes or wheel chairs, the bridge needed to be curved to decrease the gradient. In case anyone is worried, I didn’t find it much of a detour at all and in fact can see local kids (including the adult versions) finding it quite fun to race down on their bikes:
Looking at the bridge from the Eastern side:
All up it is a very nice bridge so congratulations to the NZTA and everyone else involved for making this happen.
Perhaps timed to the opening of the new Hobsonville ferry, the Auckland Council has released a video showing a fly-through of current plans for the North West:
There are some aspects of the new Westgate development that I really like. In the town centre it is great to see that there are no setbacks from the road, that car parking is primarily at the back of the buildings yet pedestrian access is from the front, and the shared space town square is pretty neat. This should hopefully give the area a much more traditional town centre feel. On the downside it seems like a shame that some decent dedicated cycling infrastructure wasn’t put in place, and perhaps the biggest disappointment is that the ‘Large Format Retail’ and ‘Employment’ precincts will have more in common with other recent, more auto-dependant developments.
I have been getting a few emails lately from people who catch the express buses from Westgate or Kumeu to town about an issue with the bus lanes, or lack of them as a result of the new bits of motorway that opened last year. There are two issues, the first is that the onramp itself was not built with a shoulder on it, despite the previous layout having one. This means that buses are getting held up in general traffic, waiting for around 5 minutes every day where as previously buses could use the shoulder to bypass much of the traffic. You can see the difference between the old and new layout in the image below.
The second issue is perhaps even worse as not only does it hold buses and bus users up, it rubs their nose in it. As part of the previously mentioned motorway works, an extra lane was added close to Westgate as well as a wide shoulder that can be used by buses however it doesn’t yet extend all the way to Royal Rd and won’t do so for perhaps another decade until that section of motorway is also upgraded. Even though there is quite a decent lenth of the shoulder already installed that buses could use, they aren’t allowed to. This means that often buses are getting delayed by 5-10 minutes as they sit in the general traffic lanes just like everyone else.
The shoulder clearly visible to the south of the interchange
And here is an image from a reader showing the traffic, you can just see the bus shoulder in the background
A typical morning at Westgate
So NZTA, while it looks like it would be expensive to change the layout of the onramp, at least let the buses use the shoulder or is it all part of an attempt to to make buses unattractive to help justify more motorway works?