Today I helped present to the ARC’s Transport and Urban Development Committee an alternative to the Puhoi-Wellsford “holiday highway” that I have been working on, in conjunction with the Campaign for Better Transport.  As regular readers of this blog would well know, I do not think that the current proposal – a 38 kilometre “off-line” motorway between Puhoi and Wellsford is a good use of $1.7 billion that it is likely to cost. A number of people have quite rightly asked “but the current road isn’t up to scratch, surely we must do something!” and basically the presentation that we made to the ARC today address those valid questions and provides what I think are far superior solutions. Furthermore, they are solutions that could be implemented much quicker and therefore save lives – hence the “Operation Lifesaver” tag-line.

The whole report by the Campaign for Better Transport to the ARC can be read here.

Essentially, what the “Operation Lifesaver” report does is analyse the problems faced by State Highway 1 between Puhoi and Wellsford. It then makes a critical analysis of NZTA’s current proposal – with particular emphasis on how poor value-for-money the full off-line motorway would be (I must admit I’m still confused about whether the business case analysis done suggests that cost-benefit ratio should be 0.31 rather than 0.8) and also on how long the current proposal would take to implement. Two alternatives are then suggested: one with a price tag of approximately $160 million (just under 10% of the cost of the full proposal) and one with a price of around $320 million.

We put together a powerpoint presentation, so perhaps the easiest way to present a brief overview of the document (although I do suggest reading the whole thing) is to post the slides, with some comment.

As I noted above, the existing road does suffer from some serious deficiencies at the moment. The biggest problem is its safety record, with a horrific 41 fatalities along SH1 between Puhoi and Wellsford from 2000 to 2009. There is also a severe congestion problem around Warkworth, mainly during holiday periods and at weekends, but certainly not only at those times.

The next slide talks more about the current NZTA proposal, which is the 38 kilometre motorway/expressway from Puhoi to Wellsford. The high cost of the project, its low cost-benefit ratio and the very long timeframes for actually implementing and constructing the project are key problems with it in my opinion. In particular, as I have noted previously, the fact that the Puhoi-Warkworth section won’t be finished until 2019 and the Warkworth-Wellsford section until 2022 means that, on current safety records, potentially another 50 people would die on the road before the upgrade was finally completed. So what would be a better solution for this problem than what NZTA have come up with? Well there seem to be two key problems that need resolving: the safety problems first and foremost, and then the congestion problems.

As I noted above, we came up with two possible alternatives: for around 10% and 20% of the cost of NZTA’s proposal. These are outlined in the two slides below: We also undertook a bit of an economic analysis of the two alternatives and compared them with the NZTA proposal. The amount of benefit each of the alternatives were given was based on what I think is a conservative comparison to the amount of benefit the 2009 Business Case estimated. For example, with time savings benefits it was estimated that Option 1 would generate 30% of the benefits of the NZTA proposal, with Option 2 providing 40% of the time savings benefits. For safety, Option 1 was considered to provide 70% of the benefits, and Option 2 90%.

The results of the comparison between costs and benefits of the two suggested alternatives and the NZTA proposal are outlined in the table below: An interesting matter which caught my eye is the question of “what actually is the cost-benefit ratio of the NZTA proposal?” In all the documentation they have released it is supposedly 0.8, but in the business case I could only find $530 million of total conventional benefits – which would mean a BCR of 0.31 if we take the construction cost to be $1.69 billion. Of course I might be confusing 2009 dollars with outturn costs, but perhaps that’s not the most important point here. What does seem to be the most important point is to note, on whatever measure, how much more cost effective either of the CBT’s suggested alternatives are compared to what NZTA is currently proposing.

The ARC was highly receptive of our presentation, which I think confirmed in the minds of the councillors the previous suspicions they’ve had about the Puhoi-Wellsford project. The council provided support for further investigating the alternatives and also to discussing the whole issue with both NZTA and the Minister of Transport. It will be interesting to see where things go to from here.

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  1. Great little analysis – I’m glad we have people like you to do these analyses and to take the time to present them to ARC.

  2. That is really good stuff, we need the public to start e-mailing Joyce asking why he is planning on wasting so much of their money…

  3. That is awesome, I particularly like the fact that you mentioned that the council was quite receptive to the idea; this means that there is hope. As a regular driver of this current stretch of road, safety is my only issue – time saving does not even register with me, and it appears that your proposals (particularly proposal two) sufficiently addresses this.

  4. Great work Joshua! Now, with some of that budget saved perhaps the North Auckland Rail line could receive some upgrading?

  5. Very nice work and I’m happy that the ARC received this well.
    However, and in order to have a “comparable” discussion around the economic benefits of the options these need to have a similar detail. Particularly, the traffic forecast data (congestion, safety and vehicle flow) needs to be comparable if we are asking people to make a choice.
    This is why I’m particularly happy that the ARC received these options well as they can provide that information through their strategic transport model.

    Is that what they meant by “support for further investigation”?

  6. This is just so sensible. We have a supposed business led government suggesting an investment with negative returns. That’s not how business works no matter how ‘strategic’ an investment would be (unless there are other indirect benefits that net it out, but that doesn’t really seem to be the case here).

    The Economist had an interesting article a few weeks back about freight trains in America- apparently the best run in the world (not what you’d initially think I bet- I certainly didn’t). Investment in them has come about due to the deregulation of the industry, and interesting enough, under investment in interstate highways. While not directly comparable to NZ it certainly provides food for thought about where the North Auckland Rail line might fit within this proposal.

    It’s here

  7. The problem is, the council’s never been convinced but Joyce still doesn’t give a toss. It’s his way or the highway, so to speak, though in this case his way is the highway. A non-existent economic justification hasn’t swayed him from his absolute determination to build this new road, so what’s the opinion of a few soon-to-be-redundant councillors going to matter?

  8. Matt I agree. While no doubt clever and skilled he is he wrong man for the job he has. Hopefully the Supercity will have more sway than the current collection of councils, and I believe the local National MPs need to hear from us that we aren’t happy about this waste of money.

  9. On the positive side, there will be years more of time to wear down the “case” for this road before the dozers start rolling – by that time, everyone and his dog will know how the road is a crappy investment, and the only way Joyce will be able to still push it through is by detracting from the fact that there ARE alternatives.

    So great on Jarbury for this stuff – it’s a vital part of the fight against this huge wastage of life and money.

  10. karl, your faith in the process is touching. Joyce will have work started on the Puhoi extension before the end of the next parliamentary term if he gets the chance, and since talk is that he’s in line for B’Linglish’s job after the election we could be in it right up to our necks if we expect tunnel funding to come through before 2014.

  11. Good work.

    I think an interesting option to explore will be an option 3, namely stage 1 of the Holiday highway (namely Puhoi to Warkworth), with option 2 for the parts north of warkworth.

    My suspicion is that we will one day need stage 1 (although not at this time) and should encourage the development of a large Warkworth as a satellite city to Auckland.

    Overall I’m not too worried about the holiday highway as my view is we are likely to get the CBD rail tunnel etc eventually in any case. A Labour/Greens government and pressure from the supercity council will see to it. If we axe the holidasy highway I won’t be surpised it goes to another road (asuming Joyce is still in charge).

    The main goal should be to focus on new public transport instead of stopping new roads

    1. The reality is though that at this time we simply cannot afford the CBD Rail Tunnel and The Puhoi- Wellsford Motorway

      1. Exactly Pickle. Joyce will undoubtedly say “but where’s the money for this rail tunnel, we’re borrowing $200 million a week, we can’t just create it out of nowehere!”

        Which is why we need to cancel unnecessary expenditure on this project and say “here’s the money”.

  12. Matt, I am not proposing faith in any system. I am saying we have several years of grace before any substantial work CAN be done. During that time, every Aucklander, including those with three SUVs an a holiday home in Northland, needs to know that this is a waste of his taxes. If the anti-rail faction can try to tar a perfectly wonderful city tunnel, why should we not do our best to tar a project that actually deserves it? Until it is so stinking that even Joyce will rue having touched it.

    “The main goal should be to focus on new public transport instead of stopping new roads”

    I disagree strongly. The “here’s your bone, now shut up” logic will make us end up with more decades of ministers pompously opening PT projects every now and then, lauding all the great buses and trains, declaring that they are “over” the “PT vs cars” debate. While at the same time continuing to spend ten times or more money on roads. Sure, the CBD tunnel would be a pretty big bone, but should we take 1.5 billion (assuming he ever offers it) just to shut up about the 11 billion he is lavishing on other projects?

    It is NOT an endless pot. Any new motorway takes away direly needed money for better projects.

  13. Finally! We are starting too see common sense now. I think we should go with Option 1, it costs significantly less than the Holiday Highway, work can be done a lot sooner than proposed and it won’t put a strain to the people using the motorway. Unlike holiday highway , the existing road will remain as dangerous as ever causing more deaths, etc what makes it even more worse is that access to the new highway will be limited as very few people live this far north, and they will only be able to provide a few access points to the residents who want to use the highway. If we started a major upgrade to the existing highway, realignments, passing lanes and lane widening and building bypasses around Warkworth and Wellsford to free up congestion during the holidays periods this would have a significant impact on improved safety and congestion. Also existing access to the highway won’t be lost either and we can continue using the highway without having to spend the rest of our lives paying for it on the tolls.

    Option 1 has my support at least we would have enough money to spend on public transport like a railway link to Auckland Airport, Northern extension of the Auckland railway network to North Shore and beyond and a CBD tunnel! Even Len Brown understands our point that’s why he should be Mayor of Auckland!

  14. The CBT alternatives for upgrading the Puhoi-Wellsford route are to be admired for their sentiments but in my view they overlook a number of concerns and I believe the cost estimates are significantly low. I live on that route so I’m intimate with all the practical considerations.

    Tidal three-laning for Puhoi-Warkworth can not be achieved without a Schedewys Hill realignment. For geological reasons this is a significant project in itself. It also requires the construction of a new viaduct at Pohuehue, a new bridge at the Redwoods corner, and a new bridge at Perry Road.

    For safety reasons I do not believe tidal three-laning is appropriate for an open highway without lane barriers. It’s a disaster waiting to happen, especially considering that tourist and holiday traffic represrents a high proportion of the total road users on that route.

    Three- (or four-)laning the existing route and the installation of a median barrier of whatever type introduces other problems. There are 12 side-roads from Puhoi to Warkworth including two used seasonally by logging trucks. Traffic needs to be able to access the highway in both directions. This would necessitate the construction of additional side rides and/or underpasses and merging lanes as well as dedicated turning lanes in the centre of the highway.

    In addition to the side roads, all the farm properties on that route exit directly onto the main highway. There are no alternative back roads anywhere in that area. Each of these properties would require some means to access the highway going in both directions.

    In the admirable efforts to spend the transport budget more wisely and efficiently, it seems a number of considerations are being overlooked. Before I find myself under attack, I’m not a proponent of Joyce’s new motorway, but we are yet to see a proposal for the best workable alternative.

  15. There are a few points in the CBT document I’d like to comment on.

    “the current proposal ties up significant funding while benefitting a
    relatively narrow (and generally quite advantaged) section of society.”

    To describe everyone north of Orewa and in the far north as “a narrow section of society” implies they are somehow less deserving of a functional infrastructure. To describe this population as “generally quite advantaged” is incorrect and a distortion of reality. In addition to the population in that area, transport plans should take into account the hundreds of thousands of tourist who travel in the region every year; we’re not talking about the insignificant few who have holiday homes at Omaha.

    The document proposes a median barrier in the Schedewys Hill area. Over the last ten years the accidents involving vehicles crossing the centre line have been prevalent on other parts of the route, not Schedewys Hill. So=called “loss of control” accidents on Schedewys Hill are better controlled by realignment and improvement in road design with regard to grade and cornering.

    To say that “tourists may prefer a more scenic route” implies that there is an incompatibility between the quality of the upgrade and the scenic quality of the route. If one is to make a more likely judgement it is that tourists would prefer a safe route with easy and safe access to scenic and other destinations. Whether this takes the form of a motorway, expressway, or two-lane highway is probably not a factor.

    The document states that “State Highway 1 between Puhoi and Warkworth is generally straighter than the road between Warkworth and Wellsford.” This not correct. Both stretches of highway comprise a series of brief straight stretches, winding/hilly road, and several sharp bends. Both sections of highway are dangerous and inadequate with Warkworth-Wellsford claiming more lives per year probably because it is the more frustrating of the two routes and contributes to higher levels of driver impatience.

  16. “For safety reasons I do not believe tidal three-laning is appropriate for an open highway without lane barriers.”

    What about AHB movable lane barriers? What are the maintenance costs / year for such machines?

  17. While moveable barriers might be practical on a limited stretch of straight or moderately curved 80kph road such as AHB, it’s hard to imagine this as a practical solution on a 20-plus kilometre stretch of 100kph highway which includes hills, sharp bends and bridges.

    Besides, with a barrier machine moving at 4kph it would take five hours using one machine, so five machines would be needed for that stretch of road. Each machine would need to be stored and maintained at its own station at different positions on the highway. The more this option is explored the less practical it looks.

  18. In discussing the additional work not mentioned in the CBT report to widen and upgrade the Puhoi-Warkworth route there are two bridges I overlooked, the bride at the Puhoi turnoff and the bridge just south of the Mahurangi West turnoff. That’s one new viaduct and four new bridges.

    1. The tidal three-laning is just an idea. I agree its implementation and safety is problematic. My preference is to do Option 1 and then see what happens and what is still necessary.

  19. One solution to tidal laning would be to have a central express lane that is separated from the normal lane by wire rope or concrete barriers. Access to the central express lane would be controlled by lights at either end… however that does create issues with right hand turns to or from side roads, plus that level of infrastrucutre would probably start to cost as much as four laning anyway.

  20. Have you considered the possibility of a pedestrian underpass or bridge over the road for the middle of Wellsford?
    Currently there is a pedestrian crossing in the middle of Wellsford (North of where SH 16 to Helensville branches off if heading south). I think should be relatively inexpensive but provide better flow thru Wellsford- especially on Holiday days

  21. I note that wire rope barriers are still being proposed.This is very short sighted considering that the “Safer Journeys” document adopted by this government puts a clear directive to road designers not to include dangerous roadside furniture in the design.More enlightened European countries are actually stripping their highways of WRBs after research has shown that they don’t work for large vehicles and that they kill motorcyclists.It is a pity NZTA and other roading authorities can’t have their culpability tested in the courts.

  22. Actually, the European experience with WRB was one of deaths and horrific injuries to motorcyclists. There IS no research to call on, in real terms, since no sane person would put themselves into the posts/wires to see what would happen.
    Sadly, the NZ experience is fated to follow that of Europe, until the toll from these dangerous barriers rises to the point where ‘someone’ decides it would be best to replace them with safer options. Of course, the millions spent now will be wasted. Typical, short-sightedness.

    1. Surely that is one of the risk of being a motorcyclist..?

      I find it hard to believe that wires/barriers are more dangerous than coming off the roadway or crossing the centre line on a motorcycle…

      1. The wire barriers basically act like a guillotine, slicing someone in half. Hitting a solid barrier or going down a bank and hitting a tree is apparently less like to result in death.

      2. Its the support posts that do the damage, armco has the same problem with bikers sliding under it. Basically a car will slide along the WRB to come to a gradual stop, whereas a motorcyclist can go under the wires and come to an abrupt stop when hitting the post. Basically short of an oncoming vehicle, a WRB or armco post is the worst thing you can hit when sliding across the road.

  23. Of course coming off a motorcycle is dangerous. Yet so is driving a car.
    Take a meat cleaver. Hit yourself with the flat of the blade. Now do the same with the edge…
    Would you be comfortable driving if TPTB put a big spike in the centre of the steering wheel?
    It’s all about profile, and psi on impact.

  24. QUOTE “Jeremy Harris
    October 19, 2010 at 6:17 pm · Reply
    Surely that is one of the risk of being a motorcyclist..?
    I find it hard to believe that wires/barriers are more dangerous than coming off the roadway or crossing the centre line on a motorcycle…”

    For someone operating a blog on transport, particularly with a heading like “operation lifesaver” you demonstrate an almost spectacular lack of knowledge about your subject.

    Transport engineering is about making transport more effective, and safer for all road users, not just you.

    No wonder your submission was chucked in the bin.

  25. Motorcyclists rarely hit a concrete median at more than a very shallow angle,therefore the impact is negligible and often less than the impact of falling the 1 meter to the road surface from the bike itself ,the rider then slides to a stop if he does not hit any obstructions.This is why concrete barriers are acceptable to the FIM for use on straights of motorcycle race tracks .The often raised comment about “hitting a concrete barrier is as bad as a WRB for motorcyclists” is merely evidence that the average motorist does not understand motorcycling an basic physics.ARMCO support posts,WRBs roadside sign posts etc all act as cleavers.
    With the Safer Journeys document’s adoption by the government, all these hazards emplaced by the road designers will have to be reviewed and there are now lobby groups who will insist upon this.So why not use concrete barriers and save the hassle?

    1. If you read the actual proposal you will note it says wire/concrete barriers. We left that decision to NZTA though my preference would be for concrete.

  26. The risks of hitting something while crossing into oncoming traffic is high on a busy highway though on the highway north of Puhoi is quite low ,it’s not that busy, the risk of hitting something nasty on the side of the road is even lower.The risk of hitting a WRB post/cleaver is 100%.I doubt there is any chance that a human sized object on an acute angled path coinciding with a WRB would fail to hit one of the supports.
    And the fact that WRBs don’t stop trucks seems to have been completely ignored?

  27. Jeremy Harris says…”Surely that is one of the risk of being a motorcyclist..?
    I find it hard to believe that wires/barriers are more dangerous than coming off the roadway or crossing the centre line on a motorcycle…”
    In addition to the other following comments, it has to be said that coming off the roadway or crossing the centreline, although potentially very dangerous, is more usually just a scary moment. There has to be something there to be hit for it to be anything more. NZTA have a policy that states “No-one making a mistake deserves to die because of it.” That is why trees etc, that are close to the roadside, are being removed. If there is nothing to be hit, no-one (car drivers included) gets killed. But put a barrier in, particularly one with exposed posts, and what have you got? An unavoidable, potentially lethal, obstacle.
    Centreline barriers stop head-ons. Good stuff. But WRB kill motorcyclists, smooth concrete ones do not.
    Roadside barriers are used for a number of reasons. But WRB and Armco posts kill motorcyclists. Cover the posts of Armco with a bottom rail, and most of the problem is solved.
    It’s that simple. Do not use anything with a small profile.

  28. Paul, I thought the big thing with WRBs wasn’t just the posts, but also the wires themselves? Hence the nickname “cheese cutters”.

    David, that’s a pretty unfair thing to say. If you actually read this blog you’d realise that Josh doesn’t claim to be any kind of expert on road safety engineering. Or expert on anything, for that matter, he’s just interested in moving people efficiently and effectively. You might be surprised to learn that even road engineers don’t know everything about all aspects of road safety.
    Plus, CBT is a lot more people than Josh. If their worst “crime” in the submission was to suggest the use of wire barriers as an alternative to the full umpty-billion-dollar wet-dream that Joyce has planned, the bigger crime is Joyce ignoring a near-term reduction in the road toll, almost to zero, in favour of his mates in trucking and construction for a project that won’t touch the road toll for another 20 years.

  29. Matt, the nickname is from appearance mainly I’m guessing, all reports I’ve seen have highlighted the dangers of the posts to the riders rather than the wires.

    Also, a factor not in your proposal, is that in a few other countries WRBs are now being ripped up due to the danger to motorcyclists, and ineffectiveness against trucks, and being replaced with concrete, other countries are fitting plastic guards along the bottom to protect bikers from the posts. We are campaigning for the ripping out option, and if this happens it would be a huge waste of money, far better to recommend the safer (both financially, and physically) option of the concrete barriers I reckon.

    1. Not my proposal. I’m not involved with CBT, I just happen to agree with them that Joyce’s baby is a waste of money that has an unacceptably long lead-time before it’ll start addressing the serious safety issues that exist with the road.
      As someone who is involved with CBT said above, the plan suggested WR or concrete barriers, it didn’t state a preference. Quite why people are jumping to the conclusion that CBT want WRBs I’m not sure.

  30. Experience and observation (bikers tend to notice things that can hurt us) tells us that WRB seem to be the barrier of choice for roading authorities when installing new. They are also used when replacing Armco that has reached it’s life span.
    So, it is natural for those that ride to assume that WRB will be used, despite all our submissions over the last few years. Responses to these submissions are almost always arrogant, condescending and dismissive, usually citing ‘lack of research’ as a reason to keep using this stuff. That, and money. Which is another flawed argument for using WRB.

  31. Matt, It is a common misconception that the wires on a WRB are the major cause of injuries,they are not it is the posts and this also applies to the relatively new use of steel posts for ARMCO.All posts should be covered.
    We are not trying to attack anyone,just trying to educate the people involved in design of our roads – their is a lot of ignorance out there.
    Up until now the response we get from NZTA is: Because there has not been many fatalities on WRBs yet,they are unwilling to consider it a problem.

    1. Dave attacked Josh, and he appears to be a motorcyclist.

      For some roads, WRBs are about the only option. The Kapiti Coast road, for example, wouldn’t have accommodated anything wider, and the barrier’s installation cut the fatality rate on the road nearly to zero overnight. Sorry to sound callous, but a motorcyclist every few years vs at least one multiple-fatality crash annually is not a hard choice to make.
      In the case of the Puhoi road, there’s no reason why it couldn’t be concrete, though I think the bigger problem there is not road-side barriers but median barriers.

  32. “For some roads, WRBs are about the only option. The Kapiti Coast road, for example, wouldn’t have accommodated anything wider, and the barrier’s installation cut the fatality rate on the road nearly to zero overnight. Sorry to sound callous, but a motorcyclist every few years vs at least one multiple-fatality crash annually is not a hard choice to make.
    In the case of the Puhoi road, there’s no reason why it couldn’t be concrete, though I think the bigger problem there is not road-side barriers but median barriers.”
    WRB might be the only choice alongside the sea, south of Paekakariki, but not for the rest of that road. If and when Transmission Gully goes ahead, the problem will be solved.
    Callous? Yep. It’s only a motorcyclist once in a while, so who cares, eh? The ethics behind NZTA’s policy of mistakes not being a reason to die only apply to those in cars, eh?
    As for on the roadsides…there are WRB dotted all round the country, protecting us all from nice safe grassy runoffs (Ohinewai)*, or a ditch (PekaPeka), or a dirt bank (Dome Valley). The last motorcyclist to die on SH5 was one of 4 who hit oil spilled by an uncaring driver on a right-hander and 2 of them slid into the Armco posts. The other one lived (without his spleen). No barrier or covered posts, and they would probably have walked away.
    * Between Ohinewai and Te Kauwhata, SH1 is like a killing zone for motorcyclists, with WRB down both sides and the middle. A rider dodging left to avoid barrier flex from a strike has nowhere to go.

  33. Hi Matt

    Thanks for a considered and reasonable reply.

    You are quite right, I am a motorcyclist, and I get a bit hot under the collar about transport issues, so I accept I was a little unfair on Jeremy.

    My motivation is simple however.

    I fully appreciate that motorcyclists, just like pedestrians and cyclists are vulnerable.

    But somehow, transport issues seem to accept the death of motorcyclists as inevitable, an acceptable trade off for other road users or the motorcyclists fault.

    We would never build a bus that might kill bus passengers but made motorists safer.
    We would never increase risk for pedestrians to make car drivers safer.
    We fill our transport plans with cycleways to make cyclists safer, yet the same planners make entire transport reports, without even mentioning motorcyclists.

    Have a look at the NZTA/Horizons latest transport plan.

    Hundreds of pages, even makes provision for virtually non existent electric bicycles, yet only mentions motorcycles as a liability.

    The sad bit is, that you can buy a motorcycle with the performance of a V8, with the fuel efficiency and emissions of a hybrid.

    But there are no batteries to mine lithium for, no dangerous materials to dispose of, you increase the capacity of your road by 5000% and do it no damage.

    Yet, we don’t seem to have a single transport planner who considers motorcycles. Even though, he has to dodge rows of them to get to work.

  34. Matt,the Kapiti coast is a bad example to use as a defence of WRBs.In NZ such use of WRBs to “save space” is against the WRB manufacturers specified installation recommendations : “WRBs should have a minimum 1.5 meter clearance from the edge of any transport lane to allow for deflection into the opposing lane”.
    The way NZ authorities install these things allows a high speed head-on to occur inspite of the barrier.

    Concrete barriers are by far the narrowest option available if the road designers stuck to the design rules of the products they use.They are just giving you a false sense of security

  35. If you guys read what I said, carefully, you would understand that if the choices are many deaths, regularly, or individual deaths, infrequently, with no real middle ground, there is only one option. In situations where a real middle ground exists I expect NZTA to tread it, but Paekak has no such middle ground. For at least five years, every year, without fail, there was at least one triple-or-worse fatality on that road, sometimes two. It was the deadliest stretch of road in the country, bar none. The WRBs changed that overnight, with no other alternative possible without significant, expensive work.
    To take your position is to say that if it makes things more dangerous for motorcylists but will make a road significantly safer for all others then it shouldn’t be done. Sorry, but that’s not how the calculations work. It’s a set of scales, and when both sides are carrying dead-or-seriously-injured people then the side that’s heavier is the one that’ll get attention.

    Paul, I take your point about recommended road widths, but the evidence from the road is that the WRBs have reduced the serious crash rate very, very dramatically. And when what you’re trying to protect against is poor driving decisions rather than losses of control, the pure psychological effect of a barrier between lanes is just as effective as concrete dividers.

  36. Several key issues were discussed at a meeting today (17 Dec) with Green MP Gareth Hughes and residents affected by the proposed Puhoi-Warkworth motorway extension. If an alternate proposal is to be debated, it needs to be fully considered and documented. In my view the existing ‘Project Lifesaver’ alternative has several shortcomings or omissions, and some controversial elements. For example, would wire rope barriers (WRBs) at the side of the road cause as many deaths as they save? It would be useful to see a properly documented alternative proposal in both full and summary form.

    With regard to the Puhoi Warkworth component of an alternate proposal I feel the following points are amongst those that need further consideration:
    – where should the Warkworth bypass be routed and how will it connect with the town?
    – which sections of the route should be expanded to three lanes, where, and favouring which direction?
    – where does the route need to be realigned?
    – what sorts of median or side barriers are most appropriate? (e.g. a concrete median barrier for as much of the route as practicable, with minimum side barriers and roadside hazards removed where possible; more than 75 percent of the fatal accidents in the past six years have resulted from head-on collisions; ‘loss of control’ accidents are reduced more effectively by road design than by barriers, i.e. remove/reduce the hazard rather than the severity of its consequences)
    – what provision will be made for merging lanes or a widened shoulder for side roads on the route and for residents whose properties are accessed directly from the highway?
    – which of the six bridges (including the Pohuehue viaduct) between Puhoi and Warkworth need to be widened or rebuilt or realigned?
    – how would widening and improvements be scheduled so that the route doesn’t experience five or more years of congestion and tail-backs?
    – is tidal three-laning really a practical feature? (no, it’s neither practical nor necessary)
    – how will this highway improve safety and enhance access to historic, recreational and other sites of interest along the route?
    – what commitment will the government make to improving the northland rail service to ease road freight congestion?
    – which cost-benefit figures can be relied on and why?
    – what consultation has taken place – if any – with people living/working north of Wellsford who are also affected by changes to the Puhoi-Wellsford route?
    – although cyclists (and motorcyclists) may be regarded as ‘minority’ road users, an alternate design should accommodate and be safe for these users as well.

    A clear and complete alternate proposal needs to be made available for public review. I’m not familiar enough with the details of the Warkworth-Wellsford section to comment but similar considerations would apply.

  37. I for one would love to see SH1 upgraded without the expense of a new 4 lane motorway. But I have to admit that I am somewhat biased – you see I live on the indicative route. No, the RTA hasn’t proposed bulldozing my home – they just want to build their motorway 200 metres away from my beautiful dream home that consumed most of my life savings. Because they don’t need to take my land they don’t have to pay ANY compensation AT ALL! So – all of you people sitting safe in your homes debating on where this road should go – spare a thought for those of us who are being forced into accepting significant reductions in our quality of life, value of our assets etc. I would like to see the same amount of energy displayed so far in this blog put into changing the Public Works Act so that roads such as these are built upon fairness and equity – not by pillaging the life savings of the poor unfortunates who got in the way. Perhaps the good people of Warkworth who want this road so much should contribute the same amount that we are being forced to – then they might reconsider whether this road is worth it or not.

    1. Watcher, I’m sympathetic to your problems. My driveway is accessed by the existing SH1 route so I am also affected, though differently. No matter what option is chosen, some people will be negatively affected. Your situation is particularly difficult but I don’t know what the solution is unless the PWA is amended to compensate property owners for loss in value.

    2. It is unfair, you should be compensated for any damage to your property – as we all should… Traffic particulate damages all our homes (those on main throughfares especially) yet can we sue the Auckland City Council for it..?

      Not easily… Imagine how much better our transport system would be if we removed these externalities to include damage to health, business and the environment, if transports effects were reflected in our rates beyond their construction and maintanance costs, i.e. how much parking requirements inflate our rates…

    3. Hi watcher. in case you were unaware, the ministry of the environment is consulting on possible changes to the PWA at the moment, in the guise of potential changes to the RMA in terms of infrastructure provision and urban development. Take a look here:

      It supposedly closes today, but these consultations tend to be open to late submissions from what I have heard.

      Anyone else responded to this consultation? Not transport specific, but pretty relevant to most of the themes discussed on this blog!

  38. @Derek those are all worthwhile questions you are asking there, and they require NZTA and their engineers to have a good look at all of them. CBT/Greens do not have those sort of resources.
    The point of project lifesaver was to show that there were alternatives available.
    However absolutely NO work has gone into looking at whether alternatives could deliver most of the benefits for a much smaller costs.
    What should have been done is a full investigation comparing a gradual construction of the road up to a highway standard, to the existing proposal. Remember the current proposal wont do anything until 2022, infact construction traffic will make the existing road far worse. Lifesaver could deliver benefits within 2 years.

    1. Luke – yes, it seems strange that the extended motorway has been accepted by government and NZTA without a complete exploration of the alternatives based on upgrading SH1.

      Under most circumstances, it would be considered negligent in the extreme for anyone to implement a project costing nearly $2billion without fully exploring alternatives that might cost a quarter of that and yield similar benefits. What aren’t we being told?

      1. Because it is a Road of National (Party) Significance. The whole point of these RoNS was to take a bunch of projects that failed any conventional test of affordability or efficiency and to just built them anyway under the guise of ‘nation building’.

        They don’t want alternatives, they want to build a motorway.

  39. Watcher, Like you I am affected by the indicative route being 150m from my doorstep and without any possibility of compensation, so I know just how you feel. You are unfortunately in the constituency of Lockwood Smith who will not be standing at the next election and so doesn’t give a stuff. I’ve contacted him and was referred to Steven Joyce’s office. Auckland City councillors with an interest in this area and the local board members are all in favour, so no joy there.

    The ridiculous thing about all of this is that the government (Joyce) are pushing this through like crazy without any consideration of alternatives and the current dates are construction to start in 2014 and completion (to Warkworth) by 2019, BUT they have no idea yet how they are going to get this motorway through the Dome Valley. How on earth they can commit to something without a clue how to finish is totally beyond me.

    1. although I can see a need for a 4-lane highway to Warkworth within 20 years, building a four lane highway north of here will not be needed any any foreseeable point. There are 16,000 cars a day going to Warkworth, but only 11,000 beyond that.
      And the volume drops only 1000 at Wellsford. Much better spending the money on safety improvements such as curve easements on the whole road between Warkworth and Whangarei.

    2. Hi Bob – sorry to hear that you are caught up in this mess like me. To add insult to injury I saw in the local paper a few weeks back that the National Party were considering putting Stephen Joyce up to replace Lockwood Smith in this safe National seat! As for getting the motorway through the Dome Valley – it looks like they are planning to go around it – but to the East not to the West. There are such a lot of conflicting stories about this – I heard that the RTA were not going to continue the motorway as a separate road from Warkworth north because, as Luke has said, there just isn’t enough traffic to warrant a toll road north of Warkworth. However, having said that I heard just yesterday that residents in the Wayby road area had been receiving visits from the men in the fluoro jackets. Big story about this in the latest edition of the Mahurangi Matters.
      Tim – thank you for the link to the Ministry of Environment – I’ll have a good look at that and see if there is anything we can do.

  40. You forgot the toll part bob, and how that will afect the whole situation..and effects on retailers in warkworth we haven’t really been into yet…jarbury’s analysis largely looked at getting benefits for less cost(specially lives)

    I personally would like this annoying problem to go away..people just chill and drive slowly through there..and we can actually concentrate more time and energy towards PT>

    1. Engineering is one of the “three e’s” of road safety, along with education and enforcement. The Puhoi road is pretty poorly engineered from a safety perspective, and requires a lot of drivers. Relying on the nut holding the wheel as a key safety device is a sure-fire way to have a bad road toll, as witnessed by the immediate and dramatic decrease in the road toll when median barriers were installed on Auckland’s motorways.

      Not fixing the road’s worst aspects is a guarantee of on-going carnage, and no amount of wishing for unicorns, rainbows and world peace will change the outcome. The road must be fixed, the issue is the scope.

  41. Also by building another road instead of fixing the poor one, they are leaving the dangerous one to still be used. And in fact with less traffic on it it will almost certainly be more dangerous as the heavier volume has a speed lowering effect. Pu-Ford will cost lives not only up to 2022 when it opens but afterwards as well…..

  42. Watcher,

    More than a rumour about Steven Joyce, it will happen. Christine Rose has been chosen as Labour candidate, but has been given the poisened chalice as returning a National MP here is a foregone conclusion.
    Being new to this blog, am I able to get your contact details or is this forbidden? Happy to post mine if this is permitted.

  43. Great to see you share these statistics with all of us. In some places such information is left in the hands of the government officials and the public is always in the dark.

  44. Great analysis, and initiative. I’m glad we have people like you to do these analyses and to take the time to present them to ARC on our behalf.

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