In the hectic preparations for my upcoming holiday (leaving this Friday) I managed to miss both yesterday’s walk along the newly completed Manukau Connection and today’s walk across the new section of the Newmarket Viaduct. In general I’m supportive of the Manukau Connection project, as hopefully it will remove a lot of traffic from Manukau City Centre – enabling roads like Wiri Station Road to be humanised, narrowed and (over time) the whole area to become something more than a giant carpark (full of moving and non-moving vehicles).
However, when it comes to the Newmarket Viaduct replacement, I can’t help but wonder why on earth we’re spending $215 million to get one more southbound lane. That’s a huge amount of money for just one additional lane. Now I realise that another reason the viaduct replacement project is going ahead is because the current viaduct doesn’t meet modern standards for being earthquake proof (apparently it can handle a 1 in 500 year earthquake while the standard is 1 in 5000 years or something like that) – but really, $215 million being spent to meet a standard and to add one lane southbound? This excellent photo comes from the Auckland Motorways blog.
After all the chaos of next weekend, when the southbound lanes will be closed for around 36 hours, the giant blue machine in the photo above will shift to the left, effectively on top of where the existing vehicles are (the motorway itself will shift to the right where the machine currently is). It should be quite interesting watching the engineers remove half of the existing viaduct over the next few months and then build the rest of the new one.
But yeah, $215 million for one more lane – crikey that’s a lot of money. Just further reinforces my thinking that we certainly are spending enough money on transport projects in Auckland – the problem is that I’m not so convinced we’re picking the right projects to spend that money on.
I agree that we aren’t spending the money on the right projects but in a way with the current government and their hatred of anything PT related, I tend to this this sort of project is a good way they can blow all our money on motorways. I’d much rather see the Newmarket Viaduct replaced and therefore ‘use up’ 215 million of money than see that money spent on adding extra lanes on other motorways around the city, admittedly this project added another southbound land I believe all the way down the existing motorway, but I support this renewal project a lot more than the NW expansion to 9 lanes which I find completely atrocious.
Perhaps this is the wrong way to look at it, but if it’s not possible to get the government to spend money on PT I feel it’s better that they spend money on replacing bridges etc without adding capacity than adding capacity.
What would have been great with the Viaduct would be if it had included a cycle/pedestrian bridge hanging off the northern side connecting Remuera with Gillies Ave, would have been a quick cycle avoiding the Newmarket gully.
“I agree that we aren’t spending the money on the right projects but in a way with the current government and their hatred of anything PT related, I tend to this this sort of project is a good way they can blow all our money on motorways.”
The project will have been planned, approved, and begun under the last Labour government. They must have prioritised it more highly than the CBD rail tunnel or rail to the airport. It looks like Labour preferred to spend money on their truck company mates rather than public transport.
(I’m all in favour of preventative maintenance and replacement before something falls over. It is something that Americans seem to do especially badly which is why they have bridges collapsing in to rivers from time to time. So well done Labour for not letting the old viaduct reach crisis point before doing something about it.)
You’re right that most of the planning was done under Labour. I can’t remember when the project was given the final go-ahead, but it may well have been under Labour.
The previous government’s transport policies were also extremely roads-focused, I’ve never suggested otherwise.
It will be interesting to see next year what Labour’s transport policy turns out to be like. It could be a major point of difference at next year’s election. Especially if the CBD rail tunnel v holiday highway argument develops.
My point obi is that we’re not getting much traction under National on PT projects and their focus is clearly on motorway building, the post wasn’t intended as pro-Labour or anti-National sentiment, but more that preventative maintenance, as you call it, is a better way for Joyce to spend the billions of roading money than on further roading widening.
In the main he is actually going the other way, pulling money out of council maintanance budgets to build fancy new roads – welcome to Uganda’s transport policy…
I think the viaduct was pretty had it. Apparently thermal expansion effects were not designed for properly (or the bridge behaved unexpectedly when built). The reason the pavement of the viaduct is a light colour is to try to prevent the deck heating up so much in the sun.
Finally (too late) people start to question this daft viaduct replacement. Tim Selwyn at Tumeke blog was querying this months ago (actually, last year, I think).
Think of what $215m would have done for smaller, better rail projects. Would have extended Onehunga rail line halfway to the Airport (probably pay for itself with 55,000 Mangere people accessing rail for first time ever).
Earthquake proofing is the best lie NZTA have ever invented. No-one wants to be on a bridge in a quake, so everyone just accepts the myth that strengthening MUST BE DONE….yaddda…yadda….yadda. It’s a con! Seriously, 1 in 500 years isn’t good enough? What is the original and revised lifetime of the old Newmarket viaduct – 50yrs, 100yrs, 300yrs? If a bridge is unlikely to expect a major quake in its expected lifetime, then the upgrade is pointless. Just build the scheduled replacement to the higher standards. And Auckland is LOW quake risk, unlike Wellington or Napier.
Incidentally, will new Newmarket viaduct be capable of taking the new 53 tonne trucks? Or will that require another rebuild, to Stephen Selwood’s delight? More profit for the concrete companies.
The sad thing is, when anyone questions the validity of these daft upgrades, they are seen as anti-progress luddites. Ditto the witless Thames (Waihou) river holiday traffic bridge.
Here’s the challenge – apply the same principle to PT projects. Like the CBD rail tunnel. Could similar benefits be gained at lower cost for rail without building the CBD tunnel? By say, reworking train routes to eliminate overlapping routes that cause the congestion? Hmm – $1.5bn saved. I assume my cheques in the mail… 😉
Not sure how you’d provide rail access to mid-town and K’Rd without a tunnel…
For once I’m with NZTA on this one. 1 in 500 doesn’t sound like much but no one know when that 1 is going to happen. The current bridge was built well before understanding of how to properly deal with massive quakes. And while not in the same league as Wellington and other active areas of New Zealand there is still a reasonable risk of an earthquake in Auckland. Failure of the current structure would result in many deaths and additionally would create a huge barrier to both north/south (on the viaduct) and east/west (on the ground) traffic flows.
I loved the angle on TV3 news last night ‘another thing ‘you’ are paying for for Aucklanders’. Obviously we are all freeloaders who don’t pay tax or road user charges.
Yes the media love to make out that Auckland is getting all the money while neglecting to say that for a long time Auckland had no investment and was still paying taxes which were used elsewhere. Also the size and growth predictions of Auckland means that it needs more money invested, money that small towns don’t need because they only really need to keep their roads maintained at roughly the current level.
How much are you prepared to pay for your household insurance, as an one off amount that will cover your house for you and your kids for the next 5000 years? $215m sounds like a lot, but we need it. Just look at how the people are complaining about the viaduct being out of action for 36hours. What would the people say if we did not have the viaduct for months??? All large pieces of infrastructure should have some kind of DR that is acceptable – what if your bank’s server room is certified for 1 in 500 year earthquakes and there is no DR?
This brings me to the second point where we require the Waterview connection (plan B to get traffic from south of Auckland to Northland. We can even talk about the clip-ons coming off.
This does not mean that we should be spending additional money on increasing capacity. We should just have a reliable roading system.
I think the point is if we have a 1 in 500 years quake we are going to have far bigger problems that a single viaduct failing…
What do you think would happen to the 80 – 100 year old water infrastructure under the “old” city that is failing apart due to age and requires a billion dollars to fix already..? Why aren’t we spending the $1,000,000,000 needed to fix that first or in the event of a 7.5 quake are you happy for 400,000 people to live in faeces for 1 – 2 years..?
I know which I think is more important and it ain’t a stretch of motorway…
This project was always going to be politically poor.
There were major problems with the design and manufacturer of the old viaduct. It started having problems very early on it life. As Matt mentioned earlier there were major issues with thermal expansion. Given how key this road is to Aucklands infrastructure I support the replacement.
In some of our engineering lectured it has been mentioned that it is typical for a 50 year design life to be specified in project briefs. The new viaduct has (somewhat unusually) been designed to last 100 years. These short design life’s are why we have issues with things like the Auckland harbor bridge. Many of our large civil projects were simply not designed to have a long or low maintenance lifetime.
If we don’t want scenes like the one in the photo below we have to accept that expensive maintenance or replacement or removal will be needed for much of our aging infrastructure.
The new viaduct maybe built to last 100 years but they didn’t build to future proof the capacity going north. The roading is already 4 lanes wide north of the old viaduct and traffic won’t be getting any lighter. The rather lame excuse that it doesn’t need to be 4 lanes doesn’t wash at all. Already the ellerslie rail station is being modified to put a 4th lane in there. We already have a 4th lane between Greenlane and Market road. It has been proven that the on ramp lights exercise was an exercise of great expense that has caused vastly greater travel times due to poor design and implementation. Having had my first trip to the UK I saw how round abouts, long on and off ramps and minimal traffic lights on the M and A roads made them flow very well. There certainly wasn’t traffic lights stopping traffic on M motorways where they joined and they didn’t have capacity changes (less lanes) like the shambles at Mt Wellington and Manukau\Manurewa.
Hopefully one day we could put all our CBD motorway system underground like they did in Boston- now that would be worth the money. Alterantively you channel all of Aucklands through traffic via the SH16 and SH20 corridors, converting the existing Southern Motorway into a high speed rail link. With the huge amount of prime real estate that would create we could then build a high density suburb (great views) to accomodate the 700K people we are supposed to be getting by 2030.
Whilst I agree undergrounding all our motorways would be grand, I don’t think Boston is a good example, the big dig went way over budget and for what it cost resulted in a pretty poor urban outcome. I’d argue that that 26 billion could have been spent improving PT with the outcome that the freeway could have simply been deomlished. There are alternative freewayways around the city that could have been utilised rather than funneling everything downtown.
SH16 from the CMJ to Pt Chev should be pretty easy to put in a cut and cover tunnel I reckon, you could then build terrace housing and low rise apartment buildings on top with a light rail line running down the middle…
Cut and cover for the northwestern wouldn’t be that cheap. To stop it turning into a giant drain you’d need a pretty serious stormwater and pumping system.
However the capacity to cover these motorways, especially SH1 through Freemans Bay (with amazing views over the harbour), without ‘cutting’ shouldn’t be ruled out. You’d basically have the motorway in the basement of buildings.
The water system isn’t in great condition, but repairs after an earthquake would be minor (track major breaks- ie where the fountains are coming out of the road- and fix working outwards from the central core) compared to the damage left by a flattened viaduct. Timescale in weeks rather than years.
And of course everyone has ample water in their diaster supplies don’t they?
Why cut and cover when the Northwestern and the CMJ are in the bottom of a valley anyway, simply build over the top of them.
On a smaller level, there is the potential to recover a small bit of land from the motorway corridor if a harbour tunnel is built. Current proposals have the main harbour tunnel portal in the vicinity of the Wellington St overbridge, while the Vic park tunnel would connect the bridge to Cook St. If they arranged Cook St as a two way access to the harbour bridge and got rid of the Wellington St ramp, then there would be a stretch of land effectively from Fanshawe St to Wellington St without any surface motorway. They could reconnect a couple of local streets and build in some nice terraces or commercial development.
“Earthquake proofing is the best lie NZTA have ever invented. No-one wants to be on a bridge in a quake,”
Gosh, bob – can’t you concentrate your criticism on something valid? or at least use better arguments?
Of course no one wants to be on a bridge in a quake. Have you ever realised that you aren’t going to be given a warning though? If it falls over during a PM peak, with thousands of cars on it, do you really think the “Hey, i didn’t WANT to be on it” is going to cut it? What about the people and buildings underneath, too?
” so everyone just accepts the myth that strengthening MUST BE DONE….yaddda…yadda….yadda. It’s a con!”
Sure. Like apartment buildings having to have sprinklers. BIG CON!
“Seriously, 1 in 500 years isn’t good enough? What is the original and revised lifetime of the old Newmarket viaduct – 50yrs, 100yrs, 300yrs?”
Fail. Epic fail. You have no idea of statistics, or earthquake proofing. Let me spell it out for you: 1:500 years means that there is a likelihood of such an earthquake happening ONCE in 500 years. Not AFTER 500 years.
So if a bridge lasts 100 years, that would mean it has a 20% chance to get hit by such an earthquake. Pretty high in my mind.
“If a bridge is unlikely to expect a major quake in its expected lifetime, then the upgrade is pointless.”
Gee, nuclear power plants aren’t likely to blow up either, and people still upgrade their safety systems. Like the bridge collapsing, its what is called a “Low likelihood & high impact” scenario. And you design for that.
“Just build the scheduled replacement to the higher standards. And Auckland is LOW quake risk, unlike Wellington or Napier.”
Again, epic fail. The bridge WAS designed for Auckland’s lowER (not low) quake risks. A bridge designed for 2,500 year return period WELLINGTON earthquakes would be much, much stronger yet.
Also, the scheduled replacement WAS about to happen, and they realised that strengthening it was just (if I remember the approximate percentage right) a quarter cheaper. So they decided that for the little extra (admittedly, quite a few million, which is about the only point I will concede to you) they’d rather build a new bridge rather than doctor around with the old one. I’m happy with that decision, and I’m as much a critic of the motorway building frenzy as anyone.
“I think the point is if we have a 1 in 500 years quake we are going to have far bigger problems that a single viaduct failing…”
Uhm, yeah Jeremy – like having an open evacuation route, and a way to get relief supplies through from the south. A motorway that is still open would be kinda useful. Or would you prefer to truck it all through Remuera and Newmarket, potentially with collapsed buildings every couple blocks blocking the way?
“Uhm, yeah Jeremy – like having an open evacuation route, and a way to get relief supplies through from the south. A motorway that is still open would be kinda useful. Or would you prefer to truck it all through Remuera and Newmarket, potentially with collapsed buildings every couple blocks blocking the way?”
Onto the isthmus you have access from 2 bridges from the East, 3 roads and SH1 from the South, 2 SH20 bridges from the South-East, SH1 from the North, SH16 and 5 roads from the West and then a dozen arterial roads on the isthmus… And you think all these roads will be blocked by more than something a bulldozer can clear in 5 minutes..? Sheesh…
Jeremy, I am not saying all other routes are going to be closed – though a lot could be, and as I said, you are also looking for evacuation routes possibly for hundreds of thousands of people, not just access for a couple fire or relief trucks. As for your bulldozers – well, how many of them do you have in stock, and are you willing to drive them through what might be big heaps of debris for example in Newmarket, knowing full well there may be living survivors (occupants, car drivers, pedestrians) still trapped underneath? A motorway, unless the major structures are damaged, will still be clear, meanwhile.
All I am saying is that the “lifeline” function in a major emergency is more than a throwaway argument.
Then we better invest in, and put people on something that can move a lot of them quickly – say cruise ship facilities and railways…
The problem with rail in a emergency it only takes one kink to hault the operation. Vehicles can move around obstacles.
Too late now. Best focus our energy on things we can have changed.
There’s more than just meeting the earthquake standard. The current viaduct is, literally, falling apart. The road surface sagged, and had to be tensioned with steel cables strung the length of the viaduct; I think it was partly related to the thermal expansion thing mentioned above. The anchor points for those cables are now crumbling, and if they let go under load there’s a fair chance the viaduct could collapse.
The important thing to note on this project is were not spending the money to get an extra lane, were adding the extra lane while were spending the money.
Yes you might say why spend the money to meet the standard, but you look at the disruption it is apparently going to cause for 1 weekend, so what if it falls down, multiply that for 2-3years, and by two directions of travel!
There is also the issue of Maintenance, the ongoing costs will soon be recovered by replacing it rather than constantly repairing and strengthening to maintian operation. Simple the bridge is due for replacement so take the chance to increase capacity.
This, Victoria Park Tunnels SH20 works are all money well spent on motorways, some of the other decisions coming about are questionable to say the least.
Karl – Well Said, this is not spending $215m to add a lane.
I think we have just been proven over the weekend, how important it is to meet these Earthquake design standards. It is one of the reasons Canterbury has been able to withstand such a major quake without fatalities.
I think the weekend also proved how “fine” we’d be without the viaduct for a few months…
Haha yea, we just have to tell everyone to stay home for 3months as we get the worlds fastest bridge builders in to build a new one. Don’t worry bout the people driving over and walking under it at the time.
You think if a 7 quake hits Auckland we’ll be as lucky as Chch was, people are going to die, how much is each life worth, $215,000,000..?
Well actually the NZ values each life at $1,400,000 so the viaducts collapse would have to kill at least 150 people not to mention the opportunity cost of using that money now…
I’d rather not die, no matter my assumed life value or opportunity cost – and I certainly would want to not die in an accountant’s ledger, thank you very much, Jeremy 😉
I’m surprised that some people seem so concerned at the fact that we spent a lot of money maintaining (for, fourth lane aside, that is what it is) a major piece of our infrastructure. I think its good that we don’t let our bridges crumble away slowly.
I can see the argument to be made easily between spending money on a costly Puhoi-Wellsford in 2020 and safety improvements now and much cheaper. But it is pretty unrealistic that within our time or the time of our children we will dispense with SH1, so of course maintaining it to high spec should be pretty uncontroversial in my view, even though we COULD spend the money elsewhere too. As I said, I am happy to reclaim that fourth lane as a cycleway once it becomes surplus to requirements.
I’m not against the replacement per say, more frustrated of the priority roads are given over a more balanced network…
$215,000,000 minus the reduced maintenance cost of up-keeping the viaduct, minus the reduced difference in material cost when replacing at a later date, you’ll find that it would actually work out quite well as $ per life, not even considering the loss of commercial production when we spend two – three years rebuilding it. However even then in peak times, you could easily kill over 150 people if the viaduct collapsed.
Also agree with Karl, would you rather die to save you country a few mill?
In Chch it was a combination of luck and good infrastructure, if you look closely you’ll find most of the modern buildings which have meet the earthquake loading spec’s have limited damage, most of the destruction has been to historical buildings which are not in a position to meet the Standards. Although the ones which have been strengthened to the standards have also stood up quite well. I do believe it would be quite embarrassing if it was our main highway and transport route which fails in the wake of a disaster.
I am in no-way a supporter of road building other than projects that really need it. I think this project is definitely one of the projects which is worth spending our transport money on.
That’s not how you run a country, if we spent millions of dollars on everything that could save a life we’d have 100% tax rates and still plenty of things on the to do list…
Jeremy – of course we’d cope without motorways. After a while, we might even be better off (assuming we’d ensure new ways of travelling are taken up). But they do have their uses, and if I had the ability, there’s few motorways in Auckland that I’d actually remove.
Now, remove some of the ramps, sure. Cover some of them up, sure. Shrink a few of them by a lane or two, sure. But I may have to wait for that until peak fuel. Then I’d be in there like lightning, building new cycleways in the wide designations previous madness has given us 😉
“That’s not how you run a country, if we spent millions of dollars on everything that could save a life we’d have 100% tax rates and still plenty of things on the to do list…”
As Joshua has pointed out, there’s a lot more benefits here than saving/protecting “a life”, and despite saying that – saving/protecting (potentially a whole lot of lives and property) is actually RATHER important, so I think you are really out on a limb here. Because if I take your argument a little further, and speculate that, for example, a collapse of the viaduct would cause, say only 70 people dead (98 million assumed cost of lives), then NOT spending the money on upgrading it would actually have been a good financial decision! Especially because you could gamble on the fact that you might never have to cover those death “payments” (actually losses to society). Somehow I disagree with those sentiments. It’s a form of gambling, and I’d rather be safe.
If we had the decision between spending 215 mil on safety improvements on the network, and 215 mil on building a New Viaduct (a choice also known as “The Puhoi Holiday Bargain”) – then yes, you might have a case, Jeremy.
But with the Viaduct, there was really no “do nothing” option. You can’t just let it degrade. So at the least, you would have had to spend 75% of 215 mil anyway (I think that, approximately was what was bandied about for upgrading instead of replacing the viaduct). So I don’t think replacing it is such a bad bargain at all.
I said above: “Id rather be safe”
Make that “safer”. I do take your point that 100% safety can never be achieved. It’s just that 1:500 earthquake security does NOT sound nearly safe enough for me, and it didn’t before the Canterbury quake either.
Of course my state cannot protect me against every extremely unlikely occurrence, but when I have the choice between a 1:500 and a 1:2500 security for the matter at hand, I know what I want, even if it costs $50 (per capita) of my tax money. Especially because, as has been pointed out a few times by now, that doesn’t only protect me – it also protects other people, the state of our transport network, and significant property values.
Not only private property values either. Consider part of the cost as property insurance on a state asset. Because if it DID fall over, do you think we wouldn’t have to replace it, at very significant cost? Yes, I know about the San Fran (or was it Los Angeles?) case where they simply did not rebuild the collapsed motorway. I am rather unsure whether that would work in Auckland…
Lol, I wonder why I defend this thing so much. Maybe because it surprises me that some people here consider it a waste, when compared to many other proposed projects, it seems to stack up well to me.
However in peak time that number could be a lot more
I must say I agree that the Christchurch earthquake has probably reinforced the need for the Newmarket Viaduct replacement project. I’m happy to admit that.
My real question with the post was whether there are other pieces of infrastructure that are more ‘degraded’ and would be better candidates for the money. Perhaps the answer is that there are none.