After waiting nearly two months, I finally received some papers from NZTA today that I had requested under the Official Information Act. My basic reason for requesting this information is that I find it annoying that an agency which spends so much public money doesn’t actually publish much of what it gets up to on its website, so I thought I’d develop a habit of requesting information on whatever might vaguely be of interest to me. Hopefully in the longer run I might annoy them enough that they’d think about putting the board papers online, much like how ARTA puts its monthly business report online for all of us to look at. I also hoped that occasionally I would find a really interesting nugget of information – as well as advancing my own knowledge of what goes on at NZTA.

Interestingly enough, buried within the March 2010 Chief Executive’s Report to the Board (in Attachment 1: Major business issues update) there is what I would call a quite interesting little nugget of information – about the Victoria Park Tunnel project. It reads as follows:

Southbound Tunnel Proposal

The VPT Alliance have put forward a proposal to construct a VPT Southbound Tunnel, replacing the existing viaduct, as part of the current Victoria Park Tunnel works. Their justification implies that due to the safety egresses required for a northbound tunnel only, a full southbound tunnel could be constructed now for only an additional $70 to 80 million. This would also remove the requirement to spend any money retro-fitting the existing Viaduct, for which $69 million is currently allocated in the NLTP, as it would be completely removed and replaced by the southbound tunnel.

A review of the proposal has been undertaken by the Auckland Transport Planning Team and has concluded that a southbound tunnel cannot be justified at this stage. The major advantage of this proposal is the aesthetic value of restoring the park once the viaduct is removed. However, the viaduct can be maintained for the next 20 years with approximately $8-10 million of mitigation, hence there is little justification for spending $70 to 80 million now to replace it. Beyond this timeframe it is expected that this part of the park will form part of the Additonal Waitemata Harbour Crossing. As reported to the Board in November 2009 a designation is being sought for a future crossing. Investigation is ongoing on the final form and function of the crossing. Provision of a southbound tunnel at this stage could restrict options and potentially remove the possibility of a bridge option.

Progressing a southbound tunnel now would also lead to a reduction in functionality. The viaduct will be reconfigured to provide 4 lanes southbound, where as a new southbound tunnel would provide 3 lanes southbound.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, there is no compelling case to constructing a southbound tunnel now, and as a result this proposal should not be progressed any further. The additional tunnel would be in the order of $70-80 million, where as the Viaduct can be maintained for another 20 years with $8-10 million of mitigation, prior to being replaced by an AWHC project.

Now first things first, I’m a little confused by these numbers. It would seem as though $69 million has been allocated to retro-fitting the existing viaduct¬†as part of the VPT project, so if you were to spend the $70-80 million on the tunnel, really the cost of that tunnel would be around $10 million over and above what you need to spend anyway. Well, that’s how the first paragraph reads to me anyway, although subsequent paragraphs tend to overlook this or contradict it. If it takes $80 million to turn Victoria Park back into a proper park, then I would say the case is fairly marginal, although I would love to see it happen. If it only costs $10 million extra to do it then I reckon it’s a no-brainer – come on, we want the park back! (that’s a catchy phrase actually).

The other thing that’s interesting is to hear how seriously NZTA are considering a bridge proposal for their next harbour crossing project. I had thought myself that the Anzac Bridge idea was a bit of a joke, but it would seem that’s not the case – unfortunately in this situation as that seems a pretty key reason why NZTA have rejected the southbound tunnel idea. In terms of it being three lanes rather than four lanes, well I’m sure if you add another few million onto the price tag (let’s say $16-18 million instead of $10 million over and above what needs to be spent on the viaduct anyway) it still seems like a pretty good deal to me.

Victoria Park is an utterly precious resource, being an inner city green space. As shown in the image below, it has been unfortunately rather ruined over the past 30-40 years by the presence of the Victoria Park viaduct. If it really only costs $10-20 million to bring the park back to its former glory, then surely that’s worth it? Wouldn’t it be nice to see the park back as a whole?

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21 comments

  1. Very interesting and quite sad if they plan to spend 69 million to retrofit the existing bridge when 1-10 million more would allow its removal. I’m also slightly depressed at the prospect of more of downtown Auckland i.e. the tank farm and it would read as though some of Victoria Park as well potentially being destroyed by an another motorway…

  2. “The major advantage of this proposal is the aesthetic value of restoring the park once the viaduct is removed. However, the viaduct can be maintained for the next 20 years with approximately $8-10 million of mitigation”

    Once more cheapness trumps creating a desirable urban environment – it’s not like Auckland couldn’t do with a bit of beautification.

  3. It being at ground level would be terrible, but I don’t find the viaduct a huge problem. Also, the portal-end of a south-bound tunnel would ~presumably~ be emitting a relatively high density of fumes/particulates next to a dense residential area and a primary school. The thing that gets me about this project is that NZTA are building a “architectural footbridge” from Jacob’s Ladder over to Westhaven, but IMHO a much greater need is a basic pedestrian bridge to get over the motorway off-ramp between the popular Northern Busway bus stops outside AirNZ building. Currently that whole intersection is most pedestrian unfriendly.

  4. It once again shows the typical NZ attitude of lets save a few million now but it will require us to spend 10 times that amount to do the same thing in a few years time.

  5. Forget about the park, it would just be nice to put some of the major motorways that run through our inner city underground. Then we could have, oh, I don’t know, those things that other people have in their CBD like offices and buildings, and pedestrian areas, and cafes and spaces you might actually want to inhabit for more than 2 minutes.

  6. Does this imply NZTA are essentially squatting on Victoria Park with a road, in order that it will make any bridge proposal look like less of an imposition on green space?

    Anzac bridge is a joke. Building another bridge that can’t handle heavy rail would be farce!

  7. Am I reading something different..?

    The additional crossing designation is for tunnels, they don’t mention a bridge as far as I can see… Are people referring to this:

    “Beyond this timeframe it is expected that this part of the park will form part of the Additonal Waitemata Harbour Crossing.”

    I’m pretty sure the harbour tunnels are supposed to go under the park..?

    The plan was/is to built the VPT for northbound traffic (3 lanes), strengthen viaduct for southbound (4 lanes), then build the harbour tunnels connecting into the CMJ further up the hill, then remove the viaduct as it will be redundant, with the VPT for Wellington St bridge traffic only…

    As far as I can tell the proposal has been rejected with that plan in mind… It is still silly to not build the extra tunnel now if it only adds $10 million to a $430 million dollar project, worth it for two reasons:

    – Victoria Park is restored 20 years earlier
    – One doesn’t know what the future might bring (peak oil may well mean an additional road crossing of the harbour is not required)

    Come on NZTA smarten up, it is a fancy road after all…

  8. I think the main point here is that any second harbour crossing, bridge or tunnel, is going to be connected to the CMJ via a new tunnel deep under Tank Farm and Victoria Park. This would render any link between the harbour bridge and the CMJ more or less useless.

    The three lane northbound VPT tunnel could be used to link the harbour bridge to Cook St once the second crossing is built, and the viaduct could be demolished at that point. But the second southbound tunnel would be useless, there is no need for six lanes between the harbour bridge and Cook St. Seventy million or whatever doesn’t sound like much in the scheme of things, but it is a complete waste to spend $70mill to replace a four lane viaduct with a three lane tunnel that is only going to be used for eight to ten years then left to rot.

    That is what the last quote is stating: “The additional tunnel would be in the order of $70-80 million, where as the Viaduct can be maintained for another 20 years with $8-10 million of mitigation, prior to being replaced by an AWHC (Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing) project.”

    Jeremy, they are talking about a 10 year timeframe, not twenty, and the extra cost is equal to $70-$80 million because they are assuming they will only need to spend $10 million on the existing viaduct to get it to last ten more years .

    1. Nick then what does the $69 million figure refer to then? I take that figure as meaning the money that will be spent on refurbishing the viaduct.

  9. Is the $69 million possibly the cost to maintain the viaduct for the 10 – 20 year period as currently allocated in the NLTP..? It could be a number of things…

    A question to the minister may be a good idea…

  10. My understanding from the above is that the “$8-10 million of mitigation” is a minimum band-aid refurbishment to have the viaduct last until the second harbour crossing is built, while the $69 million currently allocated is for a full and more or less permanent rebuild of the viaduct. Perhaps that $69 also includes things like noise walls and stuff that have been talked about too.

    So reading between the lines it looks like NZTA anticipate the harbour tunnel/bridge will go ahead in the near future and spending anything to rebuild or replace the viaduct is a waste of money.

  11. I was initially opposed to the concept of replacing the existing bridge with a tunnell on the grounds the cost would suck up money that is much needed for other PT improvements, but $10m is a bargin.

    The problem is I would be inclined to keep the existing bridge if a second tunnel is built, and have a PT only second crossing (ie a rail tunnel only) or if road one is needed a 4 lane tunnell (for this reason the Vic Park tunnell should be 4 lanes) to connect just with the Northwest and maybe southern motorway, keeping the existing bridge (with 2 lanes converted to bus only lanes) as the route from north Shore into the city.

    Kind of like as currently planned with details at http://www.aucklandmotorways.co.nz/northern/ahc.html

  12. Not particularly related, but since the harbour tunnel has been mentioned…

    Isn’t the tunnel supposed to start from somewhere around Esmonde Rd? If so, why would you want to bring it in to the city via the tank farm? It is almost the same distance from Esmonde Rd across to Mechanics Bay where road traffic could join SH16 and rail traffic could make a right turn in to Britomart or carry on straight ahead for southern destinations. This route would go under Stanley Point and Bayswater and this would give easy access for ventilation.

    The advantages of this scheme would be removing traffic from the Victoria Park area and from CMJ if the traffic was heading north-south. Traffic from the CBD to the Shore would use the bridge, while north-south traffic would bypass CMJ and take the tunnel.

  13. The tunnel portal is proposed to be next to the Onewa Rd interchange. Check the image in the link above. From there up to Esmonde Rd would be above ground motorway on a widened causeway next to the existing motorway.

    What you have described (tunnel to Mechanics Bay) is the second of the two preferred options, but it comes second due to costing an estimated 1 to 2 billion more due to the much greater tunnel length and a lot of works needed in Grafton Gully.

    With the first prefered option, traffic to the CBD would indeed use the bridge, while north-south would take the tunnel. In terms of bypassing the Victoria Park it would do that. I’m not sure if bypassing the CMJ would be much use, as you’d be left with unused ramps and lanes through the CMJ while you’d have to build new ramps and lanes at the Grafton Gully side. It might just be a case of spending a lot to move the CMJ from the west to the east, with no net gain.

  14. That was Mike Lee’s preferred option, I remember him making lots of noise about it… I really like the current plan, if more road capacity is needed in 10 – 20 years which I doubt, so of course the one part of Auckland’s SH plan I like is going to be changed… Lol…

  15. I’m still very much yet to be convinced that we’re going to need additional road capacity across the Waitemata Harbour. Build a rail tunnel and then replace the clips ons with a lighter and more modern version. Surely if we had a rail tunnel we could survive with a 4 lane bridge for a while.

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