There was an interesting media release from NZTA today about the Wellington Street onramp, which has stayed closed since the opening of the Victoria Park Tunnel on Monday last week.

The NZ Transport Agency has deferred a decision on re-opening Auckland’s Wellington Street on-ramp until after the Victoria Park Tunnel Project is completed next year. The on-ramp feeds central city traffic to the northbound lanes of State Highway 1.

The NZTA’s State Highways Manager for Auckland and Northland, Tommy Parker, says while the on-ramp was due to re-open this month, the Agency has opted to continue the closure while only two of the Victoria Park tunnel’s three lanes are in operation.

“Opening the on-ramp now would create an extra lane feeding traffic into a tunnel that is currently not operating at its full capacity,” Mr Parker says. “We need to complete the motorway improvements in St Marys Bay before we can open that third lane with any benefit to drivers. It is not in the best interest of drivers to open the third lane until that work is finished.”

Mr Parker says it was necessary to open two tunnel lanes now so that the NZTA could close the northbound lanes on the Victoria Park flyover and prepare them for southbound traffic in the New Year. The tunnel’s third lane will be opened in March when construction to widen the motorway through St Marys Bay is finished, and the moveable lane barrier on the Auckland Harbour Bridge is extended to Fanshawe Street to improve peak hour traffic flows.

Considering the mayhem that has happened since the tunnel opened, I’m certainly not surprised that NZTA are in no hurry to reopen this onramp. But what’s perhaps more interesting are a few of the next paragraphs, which suggest that NZTA is keen on keeping the ramp closed permanently:

Mr Parker says that the NZTA and Auckland Transport will jointly review how the Wellington Street on-ramp should operate in the future.

“The on-ramp has been closed twice during the tunnel project. During these closures our monitoring has shown that traffic has flowed more freely through the central motorway junction,” he says.

“After next March, when drivers have adjusted to the third tunnel lane and new layout through St Marys Bay, we will have a clearer understanding of the benefits the Victoria Park Tunnel project delivers to the Auckland network, including CBD traffic patterns. We will undertake a six-month review of, the impacts and benefits and expect to announce a final decision about the on-ramp around the middle of next year. “

Mr Parker says the Agency understands that the on-ramp’s future will have an impact on the surrounding community and the NZTA and Auckland Transport are committed to keeping the community informed about the progress of that review as it develops.

I’m actually somewhat surprised it’s taken this long for the idea of closing Wellington Street onramp to come through. I’d shift the ramp to Newton Road – something like this alignment: The problem with reopening Wellington Street, even after there’s a third northbound lane open through the tunnel, is that the onramp will need to merge with the three northbound lanes at a fairly tricky point on the network – just after the SH16-SH1 ramp has joined with the motorway and just before the road ducks into a tunnel. With the mayhem of the last two weeks I think that adding a whole pile of traffic at this point of the network would be a bad idea.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

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  1. Yay to that, but seriously…don’t these people do models on traffic flow? Wasn’t this always going to be the case? Why was it rebuilt, no doubt at great expense, when there are sensible alternatives such as the one you suggest.

  2. Build one at Newton by all means but they better do a better job at pedestrian crossing there – as it stands the Northern side of the bridge is the only way to get across without having to dodge through traffic across roads with no pedestrian crossings.

    I’m all for closing Wellington Street, and while they’re at it close Cook Street!

  3. This would push all that ex-CBD -> Motorway traffic through Freemans Bay down to Fanshawe Street. Maybe not so nice for Freemans Bay?

    1. The main CBD entrance to the motorway is Fanshaw St and you certainly wouldn’t access it by driving through Freemans Bay from the CBD. When the Wellington St onramp was open there was sizable traffic from all sides through Freemans Bay looking to get onto the ramp. This traffic now takes other routes and has made Freemans Bay much more pleasant.

      1. And with since the Wellesley St on ramp has opened, those travelling North from Grafton/Upper Symonds St can use this onramp. I personally wouldnt bother with Newton Road, but agree it is a good option.

  4. So many things to say about this.

    First, good, please keep it closed.

    Second. Really?, this is how loose NZTA is with our money? Yet they are part of a culture that can’t evaluate a PT project enough and always assumes it won’t work. I would have thought the one thing they might be able to do is model traffic on their own love child; Auckland’s Motorways. Hell they should have enough experience, it’s all they’ve been doing for 60 years…. Don’t start me.

    Third. Clearly time for a review about how to contain the impact of this beast on the city. Ok so we have the thing there, I counted 11 stinking deafening lanes of traffic below me while enjoying an unpleasant walk across the Symonds St Bridge today. How much we access this poisonous artery through our city has a huge impact on the surrounding land use and quality of life and activity. For example. The huge opportunity closing the Cook St offramp would offer to the city to redevelop the whole of this slope of Freeman’s Bay for mixed commercial and residential use. Vehicles come off the motorway at completely uncontainable speeds and absorbing this pressure has devalued the area the and of course destroyed the existing streetscape. But this would put more pressure on the Fanshaw St exit. But at the scale they’ve rebuilt it it looks like it can take it. But more to the point this would of course be possible if there really was a plan to built an alternative to driving from the Shore to the city….yes like a rail tunnel.

    1. Running all the CBD to Bridge traffic through Fanshawe street will make Victoria Park a traffic island. The tank farm redevelopment has the potential to be a crown jewel of Auckland, and to connect the western part of the CBD with the waterfront again. Putting 4 lanes of traffic through Fanshawe and Victoria streets for the sake of Cook St is counter productive.

      Unless, of course Fanshawe Street was undergrounded. Keeping the option of the Wellington Street onramp, at least in the medium term would facilitate those works.

      1. Wellington st is already closed, has it been that bad for the Fanshaw onramp? But yes, the real long term solution is to build the Shore Line to limit the total swamping of the city in cars and buses….

        1. It’s been bad for ever. Closing the ramp hasn’t made it any worse and I doubt that reopening it would make it any better.

        2. I am talking about the onramp being useful for taking diverted traffic if Fanshawe street were undergrounded. This would enable a cut and cover operation to take place.

          Interestingly, on Google maps, you can see the property boundaries and street outlines that were erased in order to build the CMJ and north western motorway. Just as the developers are complaining that urban limits are stopping housing development, the CBD boundary created by the CMJ is limiting intensification. As pointed out above, high speed traffic flows and weird truncated cul-de-sacs have limited development in the Cook Street area. I would argue that the same problems also affect Great North road/Gundry, Newton and upper Symonds Street. All of these places should be thriving satellite communities serving as gateways to the city.

  5. I find this comment rather interesting:

    “After next March, when drivers have adjusted to the third tunnel lane and new layout through St Marys Bay, we will have a clearer understanding of the benefits the Victoria Park Tunnel project delivers to the Auckland network”

    Seriously?! Surely this is an admission that these major roading projects are being designed and implemented without any certainty that they will achieve anything worthwhile. Shouldn’t there be a ‘clear understanding’ before the first sod is even turned?

    This is tantamount to saying- “we have a problem. we’re not really sure how to solve it. let’s build this new bit of road and see if that helps”

    In the case of this new tunnel the follow up appears to be- “oops. that didn’t work. what are we going to do now”

  6. I used the tunnel for the first time last weekend, and I found the traffic congestion to be no worse than it has always been. NZTA replaced a two lane bridge with a two lane tunnel, drivers from SH16 still don’t know how to merge smoothly, so it still takes a few hundred metres for the chaos to sort itself out. 🙁

    As long as the SH16 feeder becomes the third lane, then things should improve then. Merging Wellington St into the SH16 lane, and keeping it separate from the other two until after that point (with those yellow “posts”), should help to keep things flowing smoothly.

    1. The Northern Link (ie SH16/Port link) has exclusive use of the 3rd lane in the tunnel once open- ie 2 lanes from SH1 south and 1 from the Northern Link. At peak times it will be pretty busy and the extra traffic from Wellington St will cause problems. As you note NZers (and not just those from SH16) are not good at merging. So best that traffic is dealt with by joining in a low speed areas (such as a Newton Rd onramp, or at Fanshaw St).

  7. It was probably always the intention of NZTA to keep people off their motorway. They just built the Wellington St On ramp for safety reasons and never intended to reopen it. Imagine an accident in there and trying to get to it. An emergency access would be good to have.

    The Tunnel project isn’t complete. Judgement should be reserved untill it is all completed and operating in March. Once the 3rd lane is open, hopefully the northbound merging and speed issues through there will clear up. If not, some heads will roll.

  8. I have just heard that there is an additional delay in opening the Wellington Street on-ramp.
    As a resident of Freemans Bay this decission really makes my blood boil. It’s one thing to inconvenience North Shore residents who have used the on-ramp in the past to have to continue using alternative routes – what isn’t considered is the gridlock that now exists in the Freemans Bay / St. Marys Bay area by diverted traffic.
    Try to get onto Franklin Road from Wellington Street during business hours to see what I mean. GRIDLOCK.
    I recommend the powers that be reopen the Wellington Street on-ramp this month as originally planned. ASAP.

  9. The whole thing is a complete disaster and a gigantic waste of money.

    The congestion all through St Mary’s bay as people have commented is horrific. City commuters can now only access the motorway by going down torturous side streets.

    For a fraction of the cost of the gold plated tunnel the bird cage should have been moved aside permanently and a six lane surface motorway should have been built.

    Why on earth is there a tunnel going under a small corner of Victoria Park?

    What about the huge cost of electricity for the 24 hour operation of pumps, lighting and extraction fans.

    Surely the the Victoria Park Tunnel is the biggest gold plated, wasteful, useless boondoggle of a white elephant in the history of the city.

    1. Well Jenny, simply because it is important that we stop paving over every bit of open space in Auckland City, personally I am very disappointed that they didn’t put both ways under the park and we could have got the whole thing back.

      As for the tiny amount of electricity used in the underpass, that is a laughable problem compared to the millions of litres of highly expensive, imported, and polluting oil that used by the vehicles on the motorway. Electricity that we have, and will continue to have, and is currently 80% renewably generated and 100% local.

      Of course, the real answer, as noted above is the need to invest in alternatives to driving not to encourage more of it.

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