As a kid I was always fascinated by the bizarre interchange between New North Road and Dominion Road, between Kingsland and Eden Terrace. You know the one – it looks like this: From Dominion Road/Ian McKinnon Drive, the interchange looks like this:

You can see from the above photos how “out of place” the interchange is with its surrounding area. This is further reinforced when you see what the interchange looks like from above: The interchange, as well as the semi-motorway that is Ian McKinnon Drive, exists because it is the first section of what was to be a complete motorway down Dominion Road (or very close to it). This was a key part of the 1960s motorway plan for Auckland (the Dominion Road motorway is outlined in red): It’s pretty common knowledge that our transport priorities in the 1960s were crazy, leaving us with some pretty massive urban scars like this interchange. But I wonder if it could make sense to remove this excessively large interchange – humanising this part of Auckland, freeing up some space for development and maybe even the whole thing could be self-funding?

To look at the issue a bit more closely, let’s see how much space the current interchange actually takes up – as shown in the map below it’s around a whopping 5 hectares – 50,000 square metres (assuming those places on Ace Place have an area of around 2,000 square metres):

Even if we remove the interchange, we’re still going to need to dedicate some space through this area to roads – something like what’s below:

To link up a few of the local roads (like Aitken Terrace) it might require a bit more space, but probably not too much (say around 2000 square metres). So overall, broadly, it seems that we could free up around 30,000 square metres for development through this area – 3 hectares!

How much might three hectares of urban land be worth around here? To get some sort of idea, let’s take a look at the land value of a nearby site: With this 422 square metre site having a land value of \$630,000 – that equates to around \$1500 a square metre. Multiply that by 30,000 and you get around \$44.7 million. And that’s just taking the land value of a site with a fairly small building on it as our guide – potentially you could build quite high densities around the intersection of two major arterials.

Perhaps we could tie this in with the building of the City Rail Link project – as the Western Line in this area will probably need to be lowered quite a bit to ease the slop of the Rail Link tunnel.

1. rtc says:

As an aside, who would actually own the land? Does NZTA own it since it was built within (presumably) a motorway designation – I guess that designation has since gone so therefore AC owns the land?

It is certainly something I think should be looked at and especially when you consider Auckland Council is already raising money by divesting land that was previously owned for transport projects e.g. the land behind the shops in Dominion Rd etc.

It could potentially be a pretty smart way to remove a complete eyesore while at the same time rengineering the whole area for a future light rail line to Dominion Rd as you suggest.

Reallly the council needs a few people whose job it is to look laterally at assets that are otherwise tied up, that through some redvelopment could generate money and lead to some positive urban benefits. Knocking down the lower Hobson Street Viaduct and letting a low rise be developed in its place would probably quite easily cover any costs associated with knocking it down and repainting the lanes on the road – and I think Auckland is full of such dinosaurs. How much money could they make by slicing off the old tram turning circle at the intersection of Jervois Rd and Herne Bay Rd I wonder…

1. Council (through Auckland Transport probably) definitely owns all the land that would be officially “road reserve”.

2. It would be interesting to see the cost/benefit ratio of removing this concrete maze. Even the cost/revenue ratio would be impressive!

3. this is a great idea, and i know a number of people who have looked at this (informally) before. however, the fact that it would necessitate a signalised intersection between dominion road and new north road, which would hold up every car for at least 30 seconds, will render any cost benefit of development land useless. we know how important 30 seconds is to every driver!

4. Ari says:

An interesting idea which will never happen because it makes too much sense. I suspect the cost/benefit ratio wouldn’t be that great as the cost in delays related to re-construction would wipe out millions of dollars in people’s time let alone the delays incurred indefinitely once construction of signals is complete. The problem would be quantifying the intangible benefits of the project. How do you quantify the value of a more attractive area, and not just in land value?

1. I suspect the cost/benefit ratio wouldn’t be that great as the cost in delays related to re-construction would wipe out millions of dollars in people’s time

Fortunately I don’t think delays due to construction are factored into BCRs.

1. If the project is self funding through releasing land then who cares what its BCR is as there’d be no need for NZTA to be involved. It’s not a transport project, it’s urban healing and regeneration.

5. rodin5 says:

I agree, I have always thought it quite out of place to see an almost free-flow 3 level stack interchange on two urban streets. Certainly in New Zealand anyway. It would be interesting to find out what the design life is of the various structures – someone at Auckland Transport should be able to give you that info. The optimum time (from a cost/benefit perspective) to remove the structures would be right at the end of the design life, just before major investment is required to replace/refurbish. Other thing that I would find out is what earthquake standard it currently meets – if (as I would expect) it is well behind current best practice for this type of structure in an urban area, then this would aid the cause for removal.

You are still going to want an Dominion Rd overpass of the rail line, so would also have to be able to bring the road back down to an at grade intersection with New North Road – which may use up a little bit of the ‘free’ land in the calculations above. Probably not much though, as most of this would be taken care of by filling in the trench that New North Rd currently goes through.

6. My Hero! This thing is a bloated nightmare, a rapists paradise, or more properly a vast pedestrian discouragement scheme; have you seen those stinking tunnels that people are meant to walk through?, looking into them is like staring into Hades, let alone actually entering them. It encourages traffic to speed like they’re on a freeway, only to have to slow down again which always increases driver expectation and frustration.

And what a vast waste of land.

1. Max says:

The tunnels indeed are a bad thing – but did you note that all of them have since been replaced with much more direct, non-tunneled connections? You could close them today, and barely anybody would notice. They also just built a lot of ped/cyclist improvements.

7. Matt L says:

I don’t know if I fully support making it an at grade intersection again but one thing that could be done is to make it into more of a diamond interchange. Removing the curving ramps and replacing them with straighter ones signalised ones that take up much less space freeing up a lot of land, especially on the southern side.

1. It’s a simple cross intersection, like thousands of others in the city, it in no way is improved by this absurd flyover manque, what’s wrong with an at grade intersection controlled by lights? Is life in Auckland improved by vehicles getting up 70kph for a hundred metres in the middle of town?

More place ruining, but we are used to this area being so downgraded by it’s quality having been sacrificed by a wrongheaded priority given over to monetary vehicle speed. Not mention that ideology still holding sway elsewhere in the country.

1. St Nick says:

The New North Rd underpass is a good thing.. transport wise. Would you really want to make Dominion Rd any more of a nightmare with another major intersection? A skinny diamond interchange with lights down on North Rd would save a lot of space for development. As for pedestrians on New North Rd, it would still suck for them. Don’t know how you would resolve that, it not fair to make them walk under or over a roadway.

1. James B says:

I live almost on top of this intersection. The vehicle underpass is not too bad as it is straight and has lots of traffic so there is little chance of an ambush. The dodgiest places are a curved pedestrian only tunnel. It’s hard to see around the corner meaning anyone could be lurking there and with no cars no one will see what happened. I would also estimate about 70% of traffic going through this intersection either goes straight along New North Road or straight along Dominion Road. So keeping the underpass and removing the ramps would free up a lot of the land and not reduce the capacity of the intersection by much. I would also investigate widening the underpass to provide a bus lane at least going west as in the afternoon peak this is often a bottle neck for buses.

2. Matt L says:

That doesn’t justify demolishing the whole thing when we could make a few modifications that would dramatically reduce the size of it, free up a lot of land, improve pedestrian access and slow cars down all at the same time. I think the real issue with it is the flying ramps which really add to the bulk and footprint of the whole thing so turning the whole thing into a diamond would make a huge difference. Pedestrians could keep walking on alongside what would be the ‘off ramp’ so are no longer forced under Dominion Rd, at Dominion Rd there would be a light controlled intersection with a controlled pedestrian crossing and it would also provide signals for access to/from the ramps for vehicles wanting to go between New North Rd and Dominion Rd

8. swan says:

It will need to be got rid of before it is designated by the historic places trust. You have to admit it is very unique. Most of our motorway ramps arent fully grade separated! It is truly of its time…

9. I cycle through this every day or cross it on foot. Is a total piece of sh*t from a cyclist and walking perspective. Definitely needs to be changed.

10. James B says:

I live around here and in evening peak hour the tail of the queue usually extends past here. If you kept the underpass and just had a standard diamond pattern with a set of lights you wouldn’t actually lose too much time and you’d still get most if not all of the land released as in admin’s proposal. Ideally you’d also want to increase the widst of the underpass to provide for bus lanes as the underpass does get quite congested in the afternoon peak. I would also add the missing ramp to allow for traffic to get from Dominion Road travelling north to New North Road travelling west. This would allow for the removal of the George Street level crossing.

11. It should stay as is, as it provides a ready-made, 50km/h-capable grade separated light rail entry point into/out of Dominion Road. Auckland is terrible at providing low-quality stop-gap infrastructure, and here we have a future-proofed “proper” intersection that has always been very functional, and gridlock-free.

Here’s a pic in its early days, complete with trolley bus wires for 70km/h electric buses to zip through the junction:

http://www-2.net/y23.stock.pictures/nzforestbook/lg_SEEING~2.JPG

12. Bryan says:

This interchange has a grace and elegance rare in Auckland’s infrastructure. We should retain it as a reminder of man’s folly. It does need to provide better access for cyclists and pedestrians though.

Replacing it with more tilt-slab concrete warehouses won’t improve the landscape one iota.

The cost of demolition and constructing a new intersection will likely cost much more than the value of the land, and the resultant intersection will need more space than indicated (more like St Lukes Rd/New North Rd).

1. James B says:

I believe the plan would be to provide apartments and possibly create a new public transport focused dorm suburb stretching from Newton to Kingsland.

2. You are kidding?! This thing is a killer for pedestrians, unsafe and off putting….. grade separation sounds great on paper for peds but in practice, especially like this, it’s a nightmare. Everyone walking just wants to take the most direct and pleasant route, preferably open and visible. No urine filled tunnels, under-lit and entrapping…. very strange idea that anywhere around this thing is ‘better’ for pedestrians. A footpath by the road [and not hemmed in by a mesh fence on one side and a concrete cliff on the other] and light controlled crossings would be way way better.

13. I don’t think a different sort of grade separation is the solution here. The grade separation is actually the problem.

1. Matt L says:

As mentioned in my last comment, the real issue isn’t the grade separation but the flying ramps which add a lot of bulk to the interchange and dramatically increase its footprint. Modifying those ramps so they intersect with Dominion Rd at right angles and controlling access to/from them with lights would remove most of the bulk and still free up most of that land. Pedestrians could then be accommodated beside the ramps with a signal controlled crossing of Dominion Rd which would be a much more direct route than exists now.

I can’t just see any benefits in returning it to a completely at grade interchange as all others around the city of what would be a similar size are pretty devoid and lifeless anyway

1. Agree, demolish the two ramps and replace with a standard diamond intersection, perhaps with roundabout underneath, besides eliminating the greatest eyesores and freeing up land, it would allow for a whole range of turning movements that are impossible now.

It’s worth remembering the interchange also removed a level crossing on Dominion Road, so going at grade would create a considerable incline down to New North Road.

Eliminating grade separation will increase accidents, increase emissions and delays. For those with long enough memories, the situation near this interchange before Ian McKinnon Drive was quite chronic congestion at the northern end. Given the benefits of grade separation are considerable (which is why Hawke’s Bay got two grade separated interchanges in recent years) it would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater to suddenly create an intersection. Bear in mind the intersection would need to be five-six lanes wide in both directions to accommodate turning bays in all directions, so it wouldn’t be small.

However, unless Auckland Transport was commercially focused it would have little interest in doing any of this (and there may be Public Works Act issues around rezoning the land).

14. obi says:

“With this 422 square metre site having a land value of \$630,000 – that equates to around \$1500 a square metre. Multiply that by 30,000 and you get around \$44.7 million.”

Something isn’t right with this calculation. You’re saying there is room for 71 new industrial buildings on the current ramps? No way! Just eyeballing the satellite photos suggests you’d have a hard time shoehorning in more that about five news buildings once you’ve allowed for footpaths, access roads, and the fact that the people living in the houses aren’t going to want someone building a plumbing showroom, warehouse, or panel beaters shop up against their boundary. And five is optimistic.

Five new buildings means a real estate value of about \$3million. I doubt if you’d reconstruct the junction for less than \$30million. That’s a pretty poor rate of return, even if you ignored the disruption caused by a couple of years of construction to traffic and local residents. I agree it is an eyesore and I certainly wouldn’t have built it originally, but I think it is best left alone until the flyovers need replacement, then get rid of them and rebuild.

1. I think you’re really downplaying the development potential of the land Obi. You could have apartments/shops right up to the intersection, 4-5 levels in height. That’s quite a bit of development potential. Just down the road in Kingsland there are a couple of pretty big apartment buildings on fairly small sites.

1. obi says:

The land that is already there isn’t expensive if someone wants to build apartments on it. So either it isn’t allowed in the plan or there isn’t the demand. If the plan is the problem then change it. Rebuilding on an existing industrial plot (or on any of the multitude of car parks in the area) is certainly going to be cheaper than spending tens of millions of ratepayer bucks to free up land for half a dozen apartment blocks.

Personally, I doubt there is any demand. There are far better places to live than a light industrial area.

1. rtc says:

There are plenty of apartments nearby, take this one in Kinglsand currently on the market, built on a small footprint and apartments are going for 500,000+ – I doubt apartment blocks built in this area would be any cheaper.

I think most people are in agreement that it’s a waste of land.

1. obi says:

A waste, but only a small waste. There really isn’t much that could be recovered at this junction.

If you wanted an easy win in the waste land recovery department, then have a crack at the rail triangle to the east of Vector. The triangle itself is about 500m by 200m across at the widest, but from Vector to the Tamaki Drive causeway is around a kilometer and most of it is 100m wide at least. Rather than spend 30million or more to remodel a single road junction and recover enough land for 5-ish properties, spend the money to cut and cover the rail junction and you’d have the land equivalent of about seven city blocks. And apartments here would have harbour views, even if the port was in the foreground. You could also build an underground station on the cut and covered line, so these apartments would all have easy access to the train.

15. I can’t believe pro-PT people would consider removing such a well-functioning piece of infrastructure used by large amounts of buses, and in future possibly by light rail vehicles, and replacing it with a standard intersection. Dominion Rd already has massive issues, but and doing so will make them much worse.

Do we also downsize rail infrastructure to free up property development? Or is transport infrastructure down-sizing only to be considered for roads, and nothing else?

The floyovers at Dominion Rd need to stay as they are, so traffic can continue free-flowing through the area, including buses, and future LRV’s. The last thing we want is a multi-lane intersection with lights, and more congestion.

16. Rtc says:

What are you talking about Geoff? I’m sure you’re well aware of all the railway land that has been sliced off and sold off when it was under private ownership – even NZTA sells of development rights to land they no longer need e.g. excess land around the Grafton Gully motorway project.

The main issue I fee is that the road is awful for pedestrians aspnd acts as a wall splitting New Norh Rd in two – make it unpleasant to pass through unless in a car.

17. It has footpaths in every direction, and they only take a minute or two to walk along. Spending millions pulling it apart won’t shortern the walk any.

We should be thinking about the future, and changing the entrance to Dominion Rd from free-flowing grade separation, to an intersection with lights will be a giant step backwards for all modes that use it, including pedestrians who will be breathing in all the fumes from idling/starting cars/buses/trucks at what would be a very busy at-grade intersection.

1. Scott says:

I agree with Geoff, It would be very wasteful and expensive (de-construction isn’t as cheap or easy as it sounds) rebuild that intersection at grade.

Think of it this way. If the grade separation didn’t already exist already there would be no chance of getting a high quality dedicated, grade separated lanes into dominion road for buses/ trams. Im sure the grade separation can be capitalized on for a future dominion road tram line.

18. Just do signal pre-emption for light-rail through the intersection. Plus with Auckland Transport’s latest plan for Dom Rd, light rail is decades away.

19. matthew says:

Good Idea – another great benefit of the mooted change would be to link up (in a ‘humanising’ sense) the commercial area just south of the interchange on dominion road with the similar satellite commercial ares in the city fringe and Kingsland – this would then start looking like a cityscape i’d like even more to live in rather than an area i drive through…

20. “Just do signal pre-emption for light-rail through the intersection. Plus with Auckland Transport’s latest plan for Dom Rd, light rail is decades away.”

So stop all the traffic in all directions so the trams can move, instead of keeping everything moving with the current arrangement. How is that better? How does the big increase in vehicle emissions at the intersection improve the quality of life in the area, especially for pedestrians? How does stopping all the traffic result in less fuel use?

The existing arrangement is the one part of Dominion Road that actually works. Your idea would turn it into a smelly and congested location and make the whole Dominion Road problem even worse.

1. The existing arrangement is the one part of Dominion Road that actually works.

I guess that depends on what your definition of “works” is. If the goal is to be able to pass through an area really quickly while destroying the urban fabric and creating an area dedicated to through-movement, then it probably works OK. If your goal is to make Auckland a nice place to actually be “in”, even if that’s at the cost of a bit of congestion and slower travel speeds, then this is the part of Dominion Road that works worst.

Your idea would turn it into a smelly and congested location and make the whole Dominion Road problem even worse.

I actually quite like how Dominion Road works, although a pedestrian upgrade would be nice along with some improvements to the bus lanes so they’re more continuous. It’s quite a funky and interesting road – even though it’s been somewhat blighted by the widening designation for years and has been eaten away at by the growing monster of St Lukes.

1. obi says:

“If your goal is to make Auckland a nice place to actually be “in”, even if that’s at the cost of a bit of congestion and slower travel speeds, then this is the part of Dominion Road that works worst.”

This sort of junction is quite common in Vancouver, which you’ve frequently held up as as a city that Auckland should emulate. Check out the intersection of Camble St and 2nd Ave. Or either end of the Granville Bridge. Or the George Viaduct. They also have a lot of rail flyovers.

1. Obi are you really suggesting that Vancouver’s high public transport use, excellent liveability scores and so forth exists because of these interchanges, rather than despite them?

1. obi says:

I’m suggesting that the excellent liveability scores don’t seem to suffer from a large number of grade separated road junctions, and that Vancouver city planners seem to think they are a useful transport feature.

I don’t think I would have built the Dominion Rd junction the way it is. But it doesn’t particularly bother me either. Certainly not enough to spend a lot of money changing it.

2. I agree it’s probably not worth spending a whole heap of money changing it – would be interesting to see how much it costs to maintain compared to a normal intersection. The point of my post was to suggest that it could be self-funding, or “horror of horrors” potentially even make council some money to revert it to a normal intersection.

2. Chris says:

Having lived in Vancouver, it’s Cambie and 2nd. And the Georgia St Viaduct which wasn’t an intersection like the Dominion / New North Rd intersection under discussion here – it was simply a viaduct that took me home from work to Strathcona along the viaduct at night. Cambie and 2nd is just a way to get off the bridge onto 2nd (where some very cool Flyboy/Jetgirl parties took place in a warehouse near the off bridge exit – and also a very good bakery selling sourdough).

1. That’s an interesting example…. all at grade much much better, although no real land saving. It is clear that there could be at the DOM/NN one though. There are a new block of apartments going up on the other side of the tracks near here right now… there is clearly a market for higher density living this close to town. Claiming that this land has no value is pure snobbery, as well as falling for that classic urban design trap [yes Joyce that’s you too] of believing that places and systems never change. In fact that’s all they do.

1. Max says:

Oh, of course they do. Having said all that, it’s not worth redoing Ian McKinnon Flyover until the land prices have risen again. Maybe waiting until the CBD rail tunnel is built (when Newton nearby will really take off, with positive land price effects nearby) may be a bit long, but surely NOW is not a good time for Council to sell land.

The positive thing, as admin is hinting at, is that any change could indeed likely be done cost-neutral or even make money for Council. And in a boom market, developers would likely even finance the construction costs for the new works ahead of time, as long as they ended up with the land afterwards.

The negative thing is that I am NOT sure that a Balmoral Road / Dom Road intersection will be betetr for pedestrians and cyclists. Not sure at all.

21. “If your goal is to make Auckland a nice place to actually be “in”, even if that’s at the cost of a bit of congestion and slower travel speeds”

Busy intersections do not create a nice place to be in though. They are actually a health hazard, and Auckland already has its fair share of intersections where air quality exceeds WHO standards, and Auckland already has 700 people dying from largely road vehicle emissions, per year. We should be building more “free flow” intersections, not decreasing them.

22. Ari says:

Council make money? That’s unpossible!! 😀

23. Bryce says:

Given all the controversy about Dominion Road lately, I think it is ripe for a MTR underground line along it’s length.