The NZ Herald reports:

In a surprise announcement, Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee yesterday asked the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) to commence investigations into a motorway between Panmure and Downtown: along a very similar route to the alignment of the Eastern Highway that cost John Banks the Auckland City mayoralty back in 2004.

Mr Brownlee confirmed that the need to investigate this project further was the most significant outcome of a four-month review of the ‘City Centre Future Access Study’ by Ministry of Transport officials.

“In December last year the Auckland Council released the City Centre Future Access Study. At the time I highlighted some concerns that this study had not reviewed a wide enough series of options to deal with future access problems to downtown Auckland and I also highlighted some doubts over the extremely optimistic assumptions made by that study. Today’s announcement vindicates my concerns,” said Mr Brownlee at a media conference at Orakei point, where the six lane motorway is planned to pass through.

“The Future Access Study’s findings showed that while the CBD Rail Loop performed the best of the options considered, by 2021 and especially by 2041, congestion for private vehicles travelling into downtown Auckland at peak times would be significantly worse than it is today – even with the rail loop built. This is an unacceptable outcome, which is why I requested by officials to look into other options.”

In plans released today by the Ministry, a series of roading improvements are scheduled for construction over the next six years across Auckland – with the main goal being to alleviate congestion. These plans include construction of a six lane motorway from Parnell Rise at the bottom of Grafton Gully through to Panmure where the road will connect to the AMETI project, already under construction by Auckland Transport. To save on costs, the motorway will be built at grade rather than in a tunnel, an option previously considered when the Eastern Highway was being promoted by Auckland City Council last decade.

Other projects proposed for construction include a second level on State Highway 1 between the central motorway junction and Mt Wellington, as well as the Northwest motorway between Waterview and the city.

The Ministry’s report offers only a preliminary analysis of the costs of these projects, noting a likely ‘turn out’ cost of between nine and thirteen billion dollars. “We believe this is a small price to pay to rid Auckland of the daily scourge of congestion” stated Mr Brownlee.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown did not attend the media conference, but later released a statement saying that he was “outraged” the government seemed to be “taking over” the planning of transport in Auckland. However, Mr Brown also noted that he strongly supported all the findings in the report.

“Auckland’s population is due to grow by a million people in the next five years, so we need to invest in Auckland’s future. Today’s announcement is a huge step forward for the City Rail Link project.”

Government sources confirmed that today’s announcements are seen as an alternative to the rail loop project, not in addition to it. When this was put to the mayor, he was heard muttering “incompetent fools” before shrugging his shoulders, sighing loudly and stating that he would “continue to work constructively with the government on transport issues in Auckland”.

Auckland Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Michael Barnett stated that he “strongly supported” today’s announcement. “Congestion costs Auckland businesses $5 billion a year and finally there is an agreed plan to tackle this problem. Our only criticism is that the current plan is to have the Eastern Motorway completed by 2017 and a second level on the southern and northwest motorways by 2019. We think that both projects simply must be completed by 2015 at the absolute latest!”

NZ Council for Infrastructure Development Chief Executive Stephen Selwood also noted his strong support for the transport package announced today. “We’ve been working closely with the Ministry of Transport over the past four months to come up with a solution to Auckland’s traffic problems that can be implemented in a way that most benefits our members, I mean most benefits the Auckland public,” said Mr Selwood, from his desk at the Ministry of Transport’s offices in Auckland.

The announcement was not met with total support however, local resident Anthony Pearce said that he had thought the Eastern Highway was “dead and buried” after it cost Mr Banks the 2004 Auckland mayoralty. “Little did I know that much of the designation was never removed!” wailed Mr Pearce. “At least they’ll never be able to get consent for a six lane motorway through the Purewa Valley and across Hobson Bay!”

Environment Minister Amy Adam confirmed that, with the current changes proposed to the Resource Management Act, consenting for the project would be “not a problem”.

Construction of the motorway causeway is set to begin in June.

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  1. Sweet I can’t wait to take advantage of this new ”Eastern Highway” It’s what I’ve secretly always wanted. Public Transport be damned! God Bless Minister Brownlee! 😉

  2. Brilliant, now if we can just get them to consent to using the wharfs as an extra commuter car park, they wont need the CRL…….

    1. Ah true. A Cameron Brewer comment would have been great. Something like “what does the Mayor think of it? Whatever his opinion is, I’ll argue the opposite, regardless of merit!”

      1. Nah, Cameron Brewer’s own April Fools joke was simply another of his typical digs at Len Brown (“I have decided to join them them, haha, and now hope to get some nice overseas travel junkets out of it, haha”). Typical Brewer, and even worse, pretty boring as a joke.

  3. Nicely played, but the writing wasn’t up to scratch for either a news article or a press release. Also, having no commentary kinda gave it away. I’ll give this one a 7/10 😛

  4. Bah ha ha. Mr Selwood is hilarious in fiction as he is in real life. His line seems to be: “Take on debt, implement road network charging, and then give all the money raised to the large infrastructure companies that I represent!”

    Is he concerned with NZ Inc? I don’t think so.

    1. It IS outside of the realm of possibility – but not because of the cost, but because too many of National’s own voters sit too close to the motorway route (as Banks found in the early 2000s). New motorways are fine with them if they “improve Auckland’s economy” somewhere sufficiently far away from their villas…

  5. I’d doubt Bill English could find $13B for such a project & then there is the question of CBD road space & parking. So, no, not happening. Not possible.

    Pity focus isn’t being directed at BCR’s of projects like Puhoi to Wellsford, Transmission Gully, Christchurch motorway… These are real problems rather than distractions.

  6. Aww feck twice in two days I’ve been taken in by transport related April fools. Took till about half way down before finally clicked. Too real.

  7. if you look at the map between meadowbank and orakei, st johns and glen innes, theres this perfect space for 6 lanes high ways. no need that sophisticated and costly tunnels. they said they started planning this link decades ago, why did still build intensively on parnell, didnt our mr.president own that super luxury house right over there? now its time for your people and your country, cuz we need to build a high way right on top!

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