Late last week we detailed a couple of options about the East-West link. The first was a suggestion by a local business group involving an 8 lane motorway between Onehunga and Highbrook which was primarily along the northern edge of the Manukau Harbour and while it is pretty extreme, isn’t overly that much different to the official Option 3. The second we looked at was Option 4 which was a motorway between Highbrook and the Mangere end of SH20A which would result in over 500 houses needed to be demolished.

Before I go further that I think it’s worth pointing out that just because I don’t agree with the motorway proposals that it doesn’t mean I don’t agree that something needs to be done in the area to improve transport. So I guess the question really becomes – what would we do differently?

Firstly as I mentioned there is definitely an issue that needs to be addressed. The presentation from earlier in the year shows that Neilson St in particular is one of the busiest freight routes in the country carrying more freight than any other local arterial and more than most of the RoNS as shown by the image below. There are also some fairly high traffic volumes on the nearby South Eastern Arterial (SEART).

East-West Freight movements

The next image from the presentation shows where the main traffic flows are

East-West Key Movements

AT also monitor travel times along the route that is Neilson St – Church St – SEART – Ti Rakau Dr and say that travel times along the route are unpredictable with the worst sections being Onehunga Mall to Captain Springs Rd, Beasley Ave to Gt South Rd and around Harris Rd in East Tamaki. I would classify Auckland Transports current four official options as either trying to make alternative routes more attractive with some local upgrades and a few new connections or massive duplication of what already exists through new motorways being options 3 and 4.

What seems to be missing is improvements to the existing route and when you look at the route closer it seems much more could be done.

Onehunga Mall Area

AT say that work has been going on to improve the Neilson St section between the SH20 off ramps and Onehunga Mall by widening it and the NZTA have recently finished upgrading the southbound on-ramp. Long term the documents indicate that the NZTA want a diamond interchange on to Neilson St which would likely simplify the Onehunga Mall intersection but I have heard the tried to get that when the harbour crossing was built but that it was denied consent. As such vehicles using the northbound on/off-ramps need to use Onehunga Harbour Rd. I wonder if longer term a connection could be made to the southern section of Galway St which would likely take pressure off that intersection. The current routes are shown below in red and blue while the connection I’m suggesting is in yellow.

East-West Onehunga Mall interchange

Neilson St

On Neilson St to the east of Onehunga Mall travel times are still an issue and when you look at a map you can see that the road drops down to a single lane – but a really wide one – all the way through to the intersection with Church St. To go further, we also know that freight movements are incredibly important in comparison to moving single occupant cars and so why not make that newly added lane a truck only lane allowing heavy vehicles to bypass the traffic if there did happen to be congestion. Further if Metroport is an issue – which people seem to say that it is – then a signalised intersection could be added to assist trucks from there to get into and out of the port. The total section to be widened is less than 2km and shown in blue while the Metroport entrance is the red dot.

East-West Neilson St widening

Church St – SH1

I’ll deal with the motorway next but this section seems to be the trickiest as the route is already four lanes wide and there are three major and likely difficult intersection with Neilson St, O’Rouke Rd and Gt South Rd. In addition the road also needs to cross over the rail line which further adds to the constraint. It is this section where probably the majority of the money needs to be spent. I’m normally against this in an urban area but I think we should perhaps consider grade separating these three intersections. The intersections do splay out a bit to provide turning lanes however there would still probably need to be some land take effectively ramps the bypassed roads but that would certainly be much less than if we needed to take land for a brand new all the way from Onehunga to Highbrook. The purpose of these three grade separated intersections would be to prioritise the through movement, both East-West but also North-South along Gt South Rd. Again the route is shown in blue and the intersections to be potentially grade separated are in red.

East-West Church St


For trucks heading between Onehunga/Penrose and the commercial areas to the east of Sylvia Park the SEART provides a connection through to Carbine Rd while trucks heading south towards Otahuhu can use Gt South Rd. However one of the major problems is for trucks travelling between the Onehunga/Penrose area and Highbrook as currently the only real option is to detour along local roads to get to the Mt Wellington interchange. To address this south facing ramps directly from SEART to SH1 could be considered. This would save about 1km in distance but also cut out a number of intersections so probably provides a lot greater time saving than just that.

The downside is that extra work is likely to need to be done so that any vehicles using these ramps don’t cause issues with the north facing ramps on the Mt Wellington Hwy interchange. This would most likely require the ramps to be weaved. In addition the bridge crossing the Mt Wellington Hwy would almost certainly need to be widened.

In total it would look something like this with the blue line being the current route for trucks heading south with the yellow being the new connections added. To get to Highbrook they would just use the motorway and the interchange and connection built not that long ago.

East-West SH1


The big thing in favour of this option would likely be the cost compared to the other full scale options. These are admittedly guesses but let’s say:

  • Onehunga new connection – about $2o million.
  • Widening Neilson St – $15 million
  • Church St – $30 million per interchange = $90 million
  • SH1 connection including Mt Wellington Hwy interchange upgrade – $100 million.

So all up we are have a total of ~$240 million and we have significantly upgraded the route which would then look something the blue line below while the red line represents Option 3 and the Yellow line Option 4. To put that into context I have heard suggestions that each of these could cost in the vicinity of $1.5 billion or more.  Sure Option 3 in particular is a much shorter route but is it really worth spending what could be ~$1.2 billion just to get that last bit of savings while causing massive disruption in the process. What’s more even if in the long term we do need something like Option 3, upgrading the existing route could put off the need for the project by decades saving us huge amounts in the meantime or we could put the motorway plan money to better use elsewhere.

East-West Total

In summary let’s focus on the existing route through a series of upgrades to both the road and to the intersections, possibly even grade separating some of them. Let’s see what kind of impact a concerted effort to improve the corridor can have before we jump straight to the nuclear option of more motorways that plough through residential neighbourhoods. If after all of that we still need the motorway solution then we can look at it again however that doesn’t mean the work suggested above will be wasted, just that it will have a different use.

Lastly if the road transport and business groups still think the motorway options are the best then it might also be worth someone asking them just how much of a toll they would be prepared to pay to use it, or are they expecting everyone else in the city/country to pay for it? I’m not saying it has to all be paid for with toll money but if the trucking companies aren’t prepared to pay for a substantial amount of it through tolls then you have to wonder just how valuable the road is to them over a more standard upgrade as suggested above.

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  1. I have been suggesting for a long time a new southern exit from the container terminal thst crosses Hugo Johnson Drive through the derelict freezing works, across the rail line to the Gt Sth Road and onto a widened Sylvia Park Rd to SH1. This would take a lot of pressure off Church St and could be done very cheaply and not impact on the upper harbour foreshore. Once again they are looking at big buck spending instead of looking for cheaper options that gets the same result.

    1. This should probably be the second option worth looking at, as it lines up with Sylvia Park Road so would avoid need for new SEART ramps. Other option to look at is formalising the Kiwirail access road from Westfield to metroport.

  2. This problem is clearly screaming for an 80/20 answer: get at least 80% of the gains for 20% of the cost. It isn’t that broken.

    The crazier options are simply the result of the process being highjacked by politicians throwing a blank cheque to more rabid end of the highway industry before there has been any real investigation.

    HNO and friends are exhibiting all signs of responding to this sugar rush: Option 4 doesn’t do a thing for Nielson St, but it sure does smash the community of Mangere all over again.

    1. Yes.

      Thanks massively for doing this work. It helps us to have a clearly presented and well illustrated explanation of what could achieve 80% of the result at 20% of the cost.

  3. Other great thing is this can be staged. The Onehunga and Neilson St parts are cheap so can be done in next couple of years. The ramps and intersection separation can happen over next decade or so.
    Immediately 2 other things can be done. Gloucester Park Road has lights just before motorway onramp. However this is minor road that is duplicated 100m away, so should be closed. Also if Neilson/Onehunga Mall traffic lights phased differently to give more priority to Onehunga Harbour Road, this would clear much of the Congestion.

  4. While you’re there close off the intersection with Gloucester Park Road removing a set of lights, and potentially Selwyn Street too.

  5. I wonder if these changes would change behavior eg onehunga residents would start using church street and southern motorway instead of South western motorway. That could potentially cause more issues than it solves.

  6. This option probably needs to be compared to option 1 and 2, which I’m guessing would probably also cost about this much. I would also say that this option would do more for freight than option 1 but a similar amount to option 2. The difference is this option focuses on one main coridoor instead of creating new connections through the Westfield area. It, however, doesn’t improve connection through Mangare for Highbrook/East Tamaki to the Airport area. It also puts more pressure on SH1 as you show (but not as much as option 4). I’d be interested if you (Matt) think anything should be done along the lines of option 1 and 2, such as a bridge between Ti Rakau Dr and Highbrook Dr (which in my mind would mainly act to take pressure of SEART and delay some ofm the more expensive parts of AMETI). Overall this is a good option that should be considered – at some point I’m sue it was so I like to know why it didn’t make the short-list. Certainly this shows much greater thought than the idiotic ‘option 8’.

  7. In the longer term surely someone needs to be asking if it is appropriate to have a container yard in Onehunga, especially given the Council’s desire to intensify in areas close to the city? Maybe all those containers are destined for local manufacturers and importers but I bet not. I don’t know who owns what or the politics of this, but we have a purpose-built container port at Wiri, right next to the motorway, and Tainui are planning a freight centre in Ruakura. Why isn’t container freight going there? And wouldn’t it make more sense to get some of this freight off the road and onto rail? Yes, the rail network would need to be upgraded and expanded but that couldn’t be any more expensive or stupid than any of the options Auckland Transport has put on the table.
    I’m sorry to have more questions than answers but this all seems a bit mad. I know there’s a problem at the Church St/SH1 intersection, and I endorse the smaller, cheaper solutions. But it does seem that there needs to be some more thought given to the possibility that business-as-usual today will not be business-as-usual in 10, 20 or 30 years time.

    1. The container at Onehunga that you refer to is the Metroport rail terminal operated by KiwiRail and the Port of Tauranga, which seems to be more attractive and better located than the Port of Auckland operated inland Port at Wiri. Clearly there is still enough industry in the Onehunga environs to make a road-rail terminal hear viable.

      1. Although I also hear that Metroport could do a lot better at managing their traffic flows so there isn’t so much impact on the roads. Basically they operate a system where freight companies can turn up to pick up/drop off stuff at any time rather than scheduling their deliveries.

  8. Great post Matt and great ideas, added to by the ideas given in the comments above. I seem to recall that 5-10 years ago any mention of an East-West-type link in ARC/ARTA documents was limited to an upgrading of the existing road corridor, i.e., 4-laning Neilson Street and perhaps grade separation of problem intersections. The bottleneck of 2-lane bridges on the Southern Motorway over Mt Wellington Highway will have to be dealt with in any case, so maybe southern links to SEART could be done as part of that – I agree with Matt that that should entail separating those southern ramps from the northern ramps of the Mt Wellington Highway interchange, but knowing how bad NZTA are (e.g., SH20-SH1 in Wiri), I’m not counting on it.

  9. The connection that you suggest with the yellow line in the Onehunga mall figure (the first figure) cuts through the right of way of the potential rail extension from Onehunga to Mangere/Airport, doesn’t it?

    1. Nope. You run it over any rail link. It might need a bridge but that’s cheap compared to what AT are proposing. The 2 sections to the South, off Galway, are both listed as ‘vacant land – industries’ according to GIS so there is potential to grab some under public works. Better than flattening a neighbourhood.

        1. Thanks for that link Luke,
          I’d always idly wondered why the Onehunga motorway interchanges were big loops with a “park” in the middle, and now I know – they’re using an old volcanic crater rim.

          Yep, looks like the council is on to it (for future use if nothing else).

          1. Ah, that would be the volcano that the car gods throw pedestrians and cyclists into as sacrifices!

        2. So this was a plan put forward in 2007. What has happened since? Are NZTA hoping that somehow the decision will go away and they can build a multi level flyover again? If the council have the land what is to stop them just doing the extension? In the overall scheme of things this would be a cheap piece of road, especially when weighed against some of the proposals to fix this problem area.

  10. You have a grade separated Great South Road, O’Rorke Road, and Church Street intersections, but what about the SEART intersection, doesn’t this carry more traffic across the traffic heading to the Southern Motorway than any of the other routes? This junction will surely also need grade separation?

      1. I don’t understand. The intersection presently has traffic lights which help hold back Pakuranga traffic northbound onto the motorway. A solid stream of car traffic crossing the intersection will slow all those trucks for some time, causing delays, and they will then have to crawl up a hill and up a bridge over the motorway. If you want to keep the truckers happy don’t leave them waiting at the lights at the bottom of a hill.

      2. Cars still carry a huge majority of trips in Auckland Bryce. I don’t know why they somehow don’t need any infrustructure as well.

        1. Frank this is a boring and repetitive line from you: No one is suggesting ripping up every road in Auckland or even not continuing to invest in road based transport. The debate is around complementing our already enormous investment in the one mode in order to bring balance to the city’s systems. Indeed, in particular as the best way to relieve that system’s congestion problem.
          Extrapolating opposition to badly conceived road projects and our transport investment imbalance into stopping all vehicle traffic is just plain silly.

        2. The cars already have roads. This is about prioritising freight. If you welcome cars on to the same road you will end up with the same problem.

  11. Im not against option 3 for this area. Though it would be better as a 2 lane truck only road that connects the industrial areas directly. Out of all the options i think that has the most possibilities for public transport and our town centres. Onehunga and pakuranga will definitely benefit .
    From what has been said this is favoured by the powers that be and may be fast tracked then i would suggest jumping on the band wagon and demanding that any crossing of the tamaki river has to have rail in it. Its not the perfect place but from highbrook up to ti rakau and then to botany is not that far, and just have it join the southern line on the other side. May be better than waiting 30 years for something else.
    The onehunga crowd had rail in their proposal which was largely useless but if they can get it across the river then botany is a hop skip and a jump.
    Also option 3 would allow areas close to the onehunga train station to be rezoned as mixed use residential as a lot of the heavy transport traffic would be gone and it would be a quieter place to live. It could really help onehunga develop into a train station focussed community.

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