The herald yesterday highlighted an idea we’ve long championed, removing the eyesore that is the Dominion Rd Interchange and developing the land freed up by it.

Dominion Rd Interchange

Cash-hungry Auckland Council leaders are eyeing a proposal to replace the complex Dominion Rd interchange with traffic lights to free valuable land for housing and commercial development.

Mayor Len Brown has indicated interest in what Auckland Transport makes of the proposal, which Albert-Eden Local Board member Graeme Easte says offers better connections between neighbourhoods of Kingsland and Eden Terrace severed when the three-level interchange opened in 1968.

Ward councillors Cathy Casey and Christine Fletcher are applauding his idea, as is council urban design champion Ludo Campbell-Reid, who calls the interchange “one of those eyesores designed when traffic engineers only saw their customer as a car”.

Mr Easte, who has persuaded his board to promote the proposal, expects dismantling the interchange and its four traffic ramps – including the sweeping 277m one-way flyover to New North Rd – to more than pay for itself.

Not only could at least $20 million be raised from selling 2ha of council land for mixed residential and commercial development, but that much again could be saved by not having to build a large road bridge over the southern end of the $2.4 billion City Rail Link in nearby Porters Ave.

That is because motorists travelling between Kingsland and Eden Terrace would no longer have to go via Porters Ave or Charles St, over rail crossings which could be closed.

Mr Easte believes the extra movements allowed through a conventional intersection would compensate motorists for having to wait at traffic lights.

The idea is quite simple, the interchange – which was originally intended to be part of a motorway that paralleled Dominion Rd – would be removed and returned to a normal intersection just like hundreds of others around the city. That would do a few key things

  • It would open up a huge amount of land for development and combined with the work nearby that will happen with the City Rail Link highlights a huge urban regeneration opportunity.
  • Despite its size, the current interchange doesn’t cater for some key movements, in particular if you are heading North or South you can’t go left on to New North Rd and you are instead required to use a maze of side streets.
  • The rail level crossings on both George St and Potters Ave are needed to cater for movements that aren’t possible through the interchange. It would therefore give Auckland Transport a cheaper way to deal with these level crossings.
  • It would allow bus lanes to be extended on New North Rd through the interchange
  • It would create a much more friendly human scale environment

But just how much space could it free up? The Herald article suggests 2 hectares however looking it, there’s potentially around 3 hectares (30,000m²) of space across the four corners of the interchange – although some would be needed for connections to local roads. Based on the most recent valuations property prices in the immediate vicinity average roughly $1,750 per m² so that suggests potentially $52 million of land that’s tied up in the interchange not including the roads themselves.

Dominion Rd interchange space

I also must say it’s great to see the idea getting political support with local councillors and local board members supporting it. It also had positive support from people who submitted on the Newton Area Plan when it was consulted on earlier this year.

This is perhaps be a perfect example of a project an Urban Development Agency could tackle.

Below is a quick history of the area and interchange

Until the mid-late 1960’s the intersection of Dominion Rd and New North Rd ended in T intersection surrounded by commercial and residential developments. Traffic from Dominion Rd – and originally the trams – would get to the city via Symonds St

Dominion Rd 1959

The 1955 Master Transport Plan by consultants De Leuw Cather called for a motorway that paralleled closely to Dominion Rd, something that if built would have been horrendously damaging to the area. The map on the left was from the 1960’s version of the plan while the one of the right is from the 1955 plan showing how it was meant to connect to the rest of the motorway network.

Dominion Rd Motorway 1

In the mid-1960s work started on the interchange with New North Rd. The interchange itself was finished by 1968 although it took a few more years before Ian McKinnon Dr was complete. This image was also before SH16 was rammed through the area.

1963, Dominion Rd flyover in the foreground
1968, Dominion Rd flyover in the foreground

Now the motorway plans are gone but the interchange still exists. Will we tear it down and reclaim the area?

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65 comments

  1. It is a heritage building. It should stay.

    Seriously though, it would be pretty costly to tear down and replace. Because of the angles of the intersection, we would end up with another Rosebank/Ash which is horrible. Just leave it another decade or three when we really have to replace it and also let the land value increase with demand from the CRL being finished.

    1. It can’t cost $50m to demolish, so still a net gain. The time to do it is soon, so they don’t have to build two tricky grade separated crossings either side for the CRL and save another $50m. The angle doesn’t matter, the main movements are on the obtuse angles anyway.

  2. While I’m sure this has plenty of private developers licking their lips in anticipation of getting the land underneath the flyover for commercial and reisdential purposes.

    It really sounds like job#1 for the new Urban (Re)Development Agency the new proposed CCO, is going to be sorting out this monstrosity to the gods of urban motorways, without handing it all over the private enterprise to do.

    Seriously, even if it was cash neutral (which I doubt it will be) if it saved $50m off the CRL costs then thats a wise investment to make. And better in the Council back pocket than someone elses.

    However, I would prefer that the new CCO use this opportunity as a springboard to redevelop the entire area at the same time (not all at once, but in a phased and coordinated fashion, not a bunch of piecemeal ad-hoc buildings by various developers.

    Of course this was canvassed 3 years ago by the former admin see this url:
    http://greaterakl.wpengine.com/2011/08/19/removing-the-dominionnew-north-interchange/

    Many of the comments then do still apply now, but with the added benefit of actually having a design for the CRL and the NOR process in play we know where CRL will run and its only a matter of dovetailling this flyover-be-gone work with the CRL to maximise the outcomes for Auckland, not just some private developers.

  3. Get on with it, unwinding the bold but totally misguided overbuilding of road infrastructure of the second half of the 20C is a major task for our times. So finding places to start that unlocks underlying value buried beneath these monuments to motordom is urgent. Auckland will get a great deal of positive international attention for this too, at least AC and AT can do something that actually supports the clean green NZ idea.

    All strength to your elbow, Graeme.

    1. Yes but its replaced a bit down the road by the mega hideous Waterview eyesore.so quite how NZ would benefit from this wisdom I know not. The quote “one of those eyesores designed when traffic engineers only saw their customer as a car”.still applies to this government right now!.

    2. Being our free flowing spending council I am really sceptical about this. It will cost a fortune to demolish, then rebuild the alternative and in the interim cause traffic mayhem and possibly rail too. And sure they may be able to claw that cost back only after every contractor and his dog have clipped the ticket but isn’t our council skint at the moment? Hence the endless search for roads to toll and rates that continually go skywards! Perhaps when AC have their house financially in order then look at nice things like this to blow money on.

        1. Um, let me guess, “‘cos rates are going up thats why”.

          Yeah, like name me a time in the last few decades where rates under any of Auckland council haven’t “gone up” on year on year basis by more than the official CPI (rate of inflation).

        2. To quote Auckland Council 29/10/14 “Auckland faces a $12 billion transport funding gap to build the new roads, rail, ferries, busways, cycleways and supporting infrastructure needed to cope with a population set to hit 2.5 million in the next three decades.” I am aware that a large chunk of this short fall is for more bloody roads. So why not stop spending our money we don’t have on changing roads that don’t really need changing. And yes, my rates are going up 10% and that is a lot of money to cover their financial hole and I am not a bottomless pit of money, not to mention quadrupled water rates and no, under the old council system I was not part of Auckland CIty Council and their never ending fiscal stupidity. They can’t even maintain the roads they do have right now, properly. Something has to give!

          You could argue that in our cultural cringe some want to tear down everything that ain’t pretty to them but this odd landmark of the then futuristic 60’s vision perhaps should remain. It actually functions quite well and if the solution is a traffic light controlled intersection in the city that does traffic light controlled intersections so badly, then the wrong question is being asked!

          1. And you’re right to a point Waspman,
            But thats not current councils fault that they are given a wishlist of projects a mile long to handle from all the original councils and has to allow for that 1 million people growth without Government input except “oh, The government will only pay for more roads, anything else you pay for, and by the way we’re removing use of developer levies on anything but roads and water supplies”. Thanks guys.

            Yes, council needs to trim the projects and prioritise them, (or ask the ratepayers – do you want to pay more, or do you want the basics only).
            The only argument is what you or I consider basic versus what council says is a luxury (e.g. bus lanes, PT and cycleways are basic but council says nah, thats enhanced”. While they still fiddle about with roading – again while Government is only paying for more roads what can they do?

            As for your rates hitting 10%, I expect mine will too.

            But in part the reason why you’ve got 10%+ hikes is that your council before the supercity used to fiddle its books and didn’t account for long term depreciation and maintenance fully and it also will have whacked business more than householders with rates differentials (as did the old ACC), so now thats going away, we’re all getting a surprise hike.

            Thats not exactly current councils fault for not allowing this differential in the past – thats previous councils policies not the current one.
            Flattening rates differentials is one things the councillors have voted for, so be it.

            As for water, well its all user pays now for both water and wastewater, not flat charging for water only and either nothing or a flat charge too for waster water as some councils did.

            Now if you don’t use water, you don’t pay (to a point).

  4. Not saying I don’t support removing it – but – you do have to consider traffic, potentially including buses. It might be just another set of traffic lights, but if they are anything like the lights cnr Dominion and Balmoral they will add another 10 minutes to the drive into the city, especially off peak. I was hoping that with the new network Dominion road buses would go via New North or Ian McKinnan rather than the current weird detour through residential streets – so they could get held up here too. And if northbound Dominion road buses have to turn right on to New North road they would either have to merge across to the right lane or have a special right turn arrow from the left bus lane.
    Is it possible to keep New North road straight ahead traffic going under, and have ramps on each side of New North road taking that traffic up to a set of traffic lights on Dominion road? Those traffic lights will work a lot better as they wont have the long straight through phase of New North road taking up time. And potentially it won’t take up any more land than a conventional set of traffic lights? Just a thought…

    1. I just realised that the difference between this set of lights and the Balmoral road lights is there is no need for on street parking – which means 2 lanes each side can operate at all times, not just rush hour, meaning hopefully there wont be massive off peak queues like with Balmoral road lights.

    2. While an intersection may add delays it also allows traffic to go in the other direction. This is the fatal flaw of motorways in cities – they break up the traditional grid of streets- forcing longer vehicle trips, eliminating pedestrian trips, and concentrating traffic which ultimately destroys places. Eden Terrace Exhibit A.

      1. Yes urban motorways privilege long distance vehicle movement over local movement and place. Inner city ones in particular are all about prioritising the needs of the distant suburb dwellers over those of the locals. They were built in a period that did not value the older inner parts of town, and glorified the shiny new ‘burbs. They represent the hegemony of the suburban world view over the urban, the former also being championed by the road freight lobby.

        That power balance has shifted.

        This is clearly shown in the result in the Victorian Election on the weekend. The Liberals, backed by central government, lost in no small part because they were trying to push through a policy from the 1960s; treating the older inner suburbs as simply a drive through zone between suburbs. They were tossed out.

        This trend looks set to continue as this century unfolds. Urban place has more value now. The urban motorway age is over, we are merely waiting for the momentum of the old ways to exhaust itself.

        The pace of this change seems to be accelerating, even in NZ, as evidenced by the recent publications by MoT and NZTA, and announcements by AT.

  5. I am not sure there is 3ha available. That appears to include Ace Place (best street name in Auckland) and the private property on that street. The real gain is the triangle on the north eastern side which looks useable and some frontage on the industrial corners (carparking anyone?)

    1. I’d have to disagree about Ace Place being the best street name in the city, surely that would be Home St…

      Also don’t see why some commercial properties were included in the shading…

        1. Lois Lane in Palo Alto is my favourite, or American Way in Memphis. Do traffic engineers retire to Road Town in the British Vigin Islands? lol

  6. Kind of a shame. That fly over is one of my favorite bits of road to ride my bike over. Amazing views of the city, a distinctly urban feel to a very un-urban city. Always feels quite exciting (and not the usual cars driving too close exciting)

    Having said that, the benefits probably out way the preferences of one cyclist. Some good development in the area would be a good thing. After the Dominion Road shops any kind of useful amenities, shops, pedestrians, anything except roads pretty much peters away into a mass of overly wide/ busy carriageways until one arrives at K Road.

    Some good shops, cafes and pubs would service the local residents (and non local) hugely.

    1. Andrew soon you’ll be getting a whole motorway flyover in the CMJ to ride on, it’s going to be great, I’ve been on it, fantastic views, and curiously pleasurable to be riding above and around the traffic…

      1. I may have ridden on that as well. Unofficially of course. It was fantastic! As a down town connector it will be great! Will look forward to project details eagerly!

    2. I thought I was the only one who liked it! I used to love riding it in the mornings (before Grafton Gully; now I mostly take Ian McKinnon Drive up to Upper Queen St). Nice gradient, gorgeous view. But I agree the interchange as a whole is awful, has to go for the sake of placemaking and general pedestrian/cyclist benefits, even if I’m sad to lose a fun ride.

  7. The Herald based its 2 hecatre figure on my report which noted a total of 4.5ha of development opportunity around the intersection but only 2.7 ha is publicly owned and some of that may be required for amenity + extra lanes at the intersection so a conservative 2ha is more realistic. By keeping all of the retaining structures (just bury them) I believe that the cost can be contained to the range $10-$20 million versus the value of land released (at least $20 million but probably a great deal more) plus the opportunity cost saving of not having to grade separate Porters Ave (another $20m odd). PS My report did give full credit to the original blog post by Joshua Arbury.

    1. Graeme,
      I’ve not read your report but can I clarify that by “bury the structures” you mean remove the flyover components between Dominion Road going north and New North Road going east and then backfill the “New North road” trench where NNR goes under Dominon Road, basically leaving NNR at “grade” with Dominion Road? (and also presumably backfill/close off the Dominion Road going South to NNR going west curving “underpass”).

      And then you will be able to have a normal 4 way intersection “at grade”, allowing all movements, plus you can then widen NNR to have dedicated? bus lanes through the Dominion Road intersection. And with that done you can close off Porters Ave so it removes the level crossing there which would have been a problem for CRL?

  8. This interchange has always been a 10 second motorway to nowhere, it stuffed up the old intersection with the New North Road and led to a silly little link up with Newton Road. I couldn’t understand it when it was first built and still don’t. For me it is an aesthetic blight on the urban landscape. I had a good walk around that area at the weekend and around Wynyard Road etc etc. It offers some faded elegance and a lot of potential. So lets drop the interchange right down!

    The other potential sphagetti junction that worries me aesthetically are the high rise flyovers being constructed at the Waterview tunnel exits. Anybody got a view on those?

    1. Pharaonic! (Hat tip to Peter)

      And you’ll be getting your own one next on the Shore too, cos the ‘burbs all deserve their mini-CMJs too. Except Orakei.

  9. Why not turn Dominion Road/New North back into a T intersection & remove Ian Mackinnon Dr altogether? Looks to be plenty of development opportunity. Or at least un-motorway Ian and reconnect cross streets.

      1. I have a feeling but cant be sure, that it was an Auckland City Council project. Their contribution to the motorways project of the time. Backs up my claim that if you want something stuffed up, get local government to do it.

    1. At the very least, if we’re going to keep Ian McKinnon: why not do something to close New North Road off to through-traffic cars between there and Symonds Street? They’d still be allowed in, but wouldn’t be able to go the full way through to Khyber Pass. Turning onto Khyber Pass cars could go via Newton Road, to Mount Eden Road they could go via View Road.

      We’ve gone to all this effort to build a bypass of Newton, we might as well bypass it. Then the buses wouldn’t get stuck and we could have decent cycle lanes. It’d also make that whole stretch much nicer and ripe for redevelopment, strategically located next to the new post-CRL Mount Eden station.

  10. If the land is no longer needed for roading purposes does it not get offered back to the people that were forced to sell the land to the council?.

    1. Nah,
      It gets offered to the iwi “Ngati Motorway” 😉 first for use in future (motorway) settlements, only once its deemed surplus to Government agency requirements is it offered to the original sellers, and only then if the PWA was used to acquire it. I recall when the surplus land for the Greenlane road widening was flogged off about 20+ years ago, they pretty much sold it off for whatever they could get.

      So, it makes sense for the (new) Urban Development agency to “own” the interchange land, as a Local Government agency they can then “look after” such land not needed for the roads for the Crown.

      Then they can develop it – and as long as they don’t sell the land they can do pretty much what they will with it, like put up apartments or commercial, or retail.

  11. What is it about this overpass that so obsesses this blog? It’s an overpass for heavens sake. All cities have them. Get over it. It’s not some lurking conspiracy to resurrect the Dominion Road “mini freeway”.
    The Dominion Rd overpass is an excellent example of 1950’s-60.s urban road structure & should thus be retained as such, as heritage status. I am aware that it’s current function fails to a degree to match it’s original intention, BUT, surely, doesn’t Auckland (& this site), have worse structures & precincts to wage war on. Not to mention that any costs spent in its removal will only mean added or expanded factories around the freed up space.

    1. I think it’s because it’s near (very near?) to a CRL station.

      Sorting it out while the rail bit is being sorted out would mean only one lot of noise, footpaths dug up etc. basically doing it “right”, which Auckland has been traditionally terrible at.

      Two instances where it may all be done right is the downtown shopping centre/ skyscraper/ QE2 square sell off; also the Franklin Rd plan will do everything at once (if Vector gets on board to bury the lines).

      I’m a huge heritage fan but I’m not with you on saving this one sorry…

    2. Carl, cos it’s shit, and a waste of valuable land, and can be removed without cost and the Auckland and the world will be improved a little; what’s not to like?

      Plenty of other things to do, but this is a win/win, so let’s get on with it.

    3. ” BUT, surely, doesn’t Auckland (& this site), have worse structures & precincts to wage war on.”

      Like what? Seriously, is there any thing more overcapacity and unecessary, talking up land so valuable in such a prime spot, that could be removed so easily? If this isn’t top of the list for biggest waste of valuable land, what is?

      1. > Seriously, is there any thing more overcapacity and unecessary, talking up land so valuable in such a prime spot, that could be removed so easily? If this isn’t top of the list for biggest waste of valuable land, what is?

        The four vehicle lanes in the middle of Queen Street?

    4. But the overpass is hideous and takes up an unacceptable amount of land that should really have apartments and stores on them! It’s structures like these that does not help stop the sprawling of Auckland. IMO both the Dominion road flyover and Hobson street flyover are far more hideous than the CMJ itself (which is tucked into a gully and a large chunk could even eventually be covered up.

  12. In reply to Greg’s long question – yes, yes and yes. I have heard horrendous numbers mentioned to dig up everything but there is absolutely no need to follow that gold-plated approach. The simplest solution is to literally bury the retaining walls so that appart from the tricky job of dismantling the curving viaduct (which probably has some highly stressed elements that will have to be very carefully handled to avoid debris flying in all directions), the demolition job is pretty straight forward and therefore relatively inexpensive. Note that the budget back in 1967 (the year our currency was decimalised) was 1.5 million pounds/3 million dollars – about half for land purchase and half for construction but the cost of everything has doubled several times over since then when average wages were less than a dollar per hour. My grandfather’s house was one of those taken for the project but I am not expecting to see an offer back to the family 5 decades later.

    1. Thanks Graeme,

      I don;t think this will harder than the Newmarket viaduct was to dismantle, they cut the cables in that early on to de-stress it which was a tricky operation but they’ve done that and know how now and this viaduct is braced at end by the “ground” and is also laterally supported by the ground as well, unlike the Newmarket viaduct which wasn’t – so provided you keep that lateral support in place when you cut it you’ll be ok.

      Then you cut out the middle sections 2.5m piece a time starting from the two section that spans a middle pier, lower them by crane and cart ’em off to be recycled offsite then bought back and used to fill the trench, by working either side of a “pier” alternately you keep the flyover portion balanced, then work towards the pier, when there saw off the pierhead with the last piece on it, then chop down the pier and cart if off , then move to the next pier and rinse and repeat.

      Remember Newmarket viaduct had an 800 tonne Gantry crane on top of it to lower the pieces down at each end of the cut but the sawing the viaduct deck to chop each 2.5m section off took the time, the actual lowering and carting away was about 2 hours, you can do that with a pair of regular cranes too as they did with the viaduct in places. Or use “Big Yellow” from Waterview when its done its dash there and is looking for more work.

      Doing that they’d have the whole flyover down in a couple of months and its rubble would probably fill most of the hole in the ground leaving it ready to compact and pave for the new NNR road.

      And as Nick pointed out, you can stage it so that NNR stays open both ways the whole time,
      Dominion Road would need to be closed only as they worked above it on the flyover, but when they did Newmarket that work was done at night for a few nights as they crossed Broadway so same would apply here too.

      In todays money it might cost $20 million to remove – remember Newmarket viaduct was removed (twice- South then North viaducts) and rebuilt (twice, South then North) for $240m total, this one is not even 1/2 the length of Newmarket viaduct, (so its 1/2 of 1/4 = 1/8th of the total length of the Newmarket viaduct that was demolished and replaced) and you won’t be rebuilding it, so on a straight like for like comparison it should cost at most 1/10th the cost of Newmarket did or $24m to demolish and “make good”.

      It also raises the issue, is that NZTA replaced Newmarket viaduct because it would not survive a powerful enough earthquake considered likely to strike Auckland and considering that this one was built the same time, wouldn’t it to be a seismic risk too as it stands? So removing is not only economically and aesthetically sensible, but is also a seismic risk reduction exercise as well?

      Its one thing to have unreinforced masonry buildings coming down around you in a quake, but to have a reinforced concrete flyover falling around your is not a good look and would certainly take a lot of lives if it did.
      So yep another reason for this flyover to be gone.

    2. You may want to check the wording of the law. I know the public works act (1981) says land must be offered back to the original owners (probably at the original price). Not sure what law was used in the 1960s tho.

        1. If the airport stays an airport and is then privatised, then it hasn’t changed its use so the land taken under PWA is still required for its original purpose and not “surplus” so the original owners don’t get a look in.
          [All thats happened is the owner has changed, not the use].

          Same with any easements over your property – they were put in place for the “then” Government departments like Telecom (Post Office), NZ Electricity Dept (now broken up in to all those generators like Meridian and Genesis, Mighty River Power etc, NZ Govertment Railways (now KiwiRail) and whatever to come and do stuff on your land for official purposes.

          None of these are “Govt Departments” any more but you can’t stop them doing stuff on your land.

          Auckland council had a bunfight with Telecom NZ for rates on all the phone boxes they have scattered around, on the basis that they are not a Govt Dept anymore, can’t recall the outcome, but there was talk of being charged for every lamp post/power pole used by Telecom or the lines companies like Vector as the “end result” of that slippery slope.

          I’m sure the Auckland Development CCO could pull the same trick just as easily for the land under the flyover if it wanted to…

  13. Wouldn’t its removal just create more congestion? It’d add travel time to both Ian McKinnon/Dominion and New North for both public and private vehicles.

    I imagine an intersection there would be similar to the St Lukes/New North one.

      1. Sorry, poor word choice. I just meant that it’d replace a free-flowing section with one that will get backed up in both directions during peak hours. New North at peak is already awful to traverse as it is.

        I understand the benefits that the project would bring to the area, so was just pondering the potential negatives.

    1. Ok, I’ve got a deal for you!

      We’ll *give* you this, slightly second hand, but only, 1 (careful) owner, well-maintained, low mileage flyover.
      You just have to pay for the packaging and handling to get it to your place, and you won’t need to buy that expensive new one down there.

      Deal?

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