The Birth of the North-Western Motorway

The work to widen the North Western motorway is becoming ever more prominent – and soon requiring the closure of the bus lanes. So I thought I would look for some old photos from when it was under construction to help show how much the area has changed in the just over 60 years since it was built.

Back in 1949 Auckland was a very different place. For a start there were no motorways and we had trams rolling around most of the isthmus which was where most of urban development was focused. The land on the Avondale and Te Atatu Peninsulas was used for farming and of course the North Western motorway didn’t exist. One of the key reasons for building the motorway was apparently to provide better access to the airport – which at the time was at Whenuapai. This was also to be the main route north out of Auckland and it was only after the harbour bridge opened that plans to run the main highway north cutting through the central city emerged.

Avondale, Whau Creek, Upper Waitemata Harbour, Auckland. Whites Aviation Ltd : Photographs. Ref: WA-23472-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

By late 1951 construction would be well under-way. In the two images below you can see the causeway extending out into the harbour.

Te Atatu highway, Auckland. Whites Aviation Ltd : Photographs. Ref: WA-29676-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Te Atatu highway, Auckland. Whites Aviation Ltd : Photographs. Ref: WA-29678-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Further along the route you can see construction in the early stages between Te Atatu and Lincoln Rd

Te Atatu highway, Auckland. Whites Aviation Ltd : Photographs. Ref: WA-29675-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

By late 1955 you can see the Te Atatu Rd interchange starting to emerge.

Development of the North Western Motorway, Te Atatu, Auckland. Whites Aviation Ltd : Photographs. Ref: WA-39904-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

On the city side, the motorway ended at Pt Chevalier where it joined Gt North Rd. It wasn’t extended to the city till the 1970’s when the CMJ was built.

Point Chevalier entrance, showing the development of the North Western Motorway, Auckland. Whites Aviation Ltd : Photographs. Ref: WA-39903-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Since opening the motorway has been widened and added to numerous times. It started out as a four lane motorway and by the time the current upgrade is finished, some parts will be up to 11 lanes wide when you include the bus lanes.

Missing Road Links

Auckland’s geography has helped to define how the city has developed, both at a regional level but also at a local level. As the city has grown we have worked around the natural barriers often taking the path of least resistance/cost but that has left us with some places that can be extremely circuitous to get around. In this post I want to look at a few places where actually adding in a road would be extremely beneficial, not just for cars but also for buses, walkers and cyclists.

First up in the West we have the another crossing of the Whau River. At the moment, particularly anyone around the Glen Eden area, has an extremely long route to travel to get to either the Avondale peninsula or to the motorway. This crossing actually had some work done on a few years ago and the preferred alignment is shown below was to link the roundabout on Rosebank Rd/Patiki Rd to Hepburn Rd and was costed in 2008 dollars at $73 million for a two lane bridge or $106 million for a four lane one. Such a route could have potentially dramatically reduced the amount of pressure that is placed on the Te Atatu and Gt North Rd interchanges and potentially been a useful bus route, especially if a busway was built alongside SH16.

Whau River Crossing

While the Whau River crossing wouldn’t come cheap, there are others that wouldn’t cost nearly as much. This time lets jump across to the East to the area around Pakuragna. The waterways around here have created some huge barriers that require all traffic from further East to be forced onto a handful of roads in order to get west. It is also difficult to serve with public transport due to the way that the two key routes, Pakuranga Rd and Ti Rakau Dr, continue to separate like a wedge the further they get from Pakuranga where the only two crossings of the river north of the motorway exist. In this case a small bridge between Hope Farm Ave and La Trobe St would amongst other things, allow for a logical third main bus route from the east to pierce right through the middle of that wedge. I imagine it would also be hugely beneficial to those who may want to cycle in that area too.

Hope Farm Ave Crossing

In the North another potential, although probably quite difficult and expensive link we have discussed in the past is a bridge between Greenhithe and Beach Haven. Its something which could provide another useful North/South bus route along the shore and would dramatically cut down on travel times from upper harbour areas.

Beachhaven to Greenhithe Bridge

There are probably also countless other places where new links in the form of bridges or perhaps as a result of removing a few houses could make a massive difference to how people get around by walking or cycling, make a more logical bus network or even to help spread vehicle traffic out further by reducing bottlenecks. If you were to have a programme of work to make some of these new links, what ones would you like to see.

The Whau River Bridge

There has been discussion for many years about whether a local road bridge connection should be made between Te Atatu South and the Rosebank industrial area. The latest Transport Committee agenda raises the project as a potential option – to add to the list of major transport projects considered at last month’s meeting of the Committee.

Here’s what’s said: There’s also a useful map outlining a few options for the bridge’s route:While I’m generally not one to jump on support of a transport project that is unlikely to have too many public transport benefits, I actually think there’s a reasonable amount of logic to this project. It would divert traffic away from a couple of really nasty bottlenecks: the southern end of Rosebank Road and the stretch of Te Atatu Road between Edmonton Road and the motorway. In fact, it could have been a useful alternative to the massively expensive widening of State Highway 16 currently being progressed by NZTA.

Now that the upgrade to SH16 is progressing, I think it’s unlikely this Whau Crossing project will go ahead any time soon. And I think that’s a shame – I’m a fan of transport projects that give people more options, rather than widening existing roads: where the congestion relief gains are usually quickly lost to induced demand.