The Canada St bridge which will soon start to be lifted into place is going to be a fantastic addition to Auckland, opening up the old Nelson St motorway off-ramp to use by people walking and cycling to the western side of the city centre. Not only does it provide a useful function but it looks good too. The off-ramp might not have been a high priority route if it hadn’t been for the fact that the infrastructure was sitting there unused for around a decade. As such it represents part of the change Auckland is starting to experience, making better use of what’s available to get more out of our transport system. What happens when those walkers and cyclists get to the off-ramp is going to a different story though.
The old off-ramp should mark a fantastic arrival to the city centre as people glide above the motorway below while able to admire the fantastic views out to the Harbour Bridge and the North Shore. It appears now though that this experience will be severely constrained thanks to massive 3m high barriers that will turn the off ramp into more of a trench. The barriers have only just started going up but thanks to the temporary construction walls it’s not hard to imagine what things will be like when finished.
The thick black poles are the part of the permanent barrier structure and will eventually hold glass panels. As you can see from the images below, due to their size, on some angles they combine to create a solid wall, obscuring any view. They will also likely make the off-ramp feel narrower than it actually is.
And on the southern of K Rd
And this is where the cycleway joins the Pitt St/Nelson St intersection
We first heard rumours about this a few months ago and tried to get the NZTA to change their mind but were told it was too late and that the barrier had already been ordered from Germany.
Just why we’ve ended up with such a disappointing outcome appears to be the result of some overzealous process following/box ticking with those working on the project scared about people throwing objects off or worse jumping off the bridge. I think there might be merit in that argument if it wasn’t for the presence of so many other bridges around from which the same thing could happen – many of which are higher above the motorway than the old off-ramp. So I took a little trip to highlight them.
The closest example and the one with the lowest barrier crosses right above the off-ramp and is where first photo above were taken from – Hopetoun St.
Next up Wellington St is a bit higher and more bulky but doesn’t feel onerous or like it impedes.
And Upper Queen St which is a similar height and with a similar but slightly different design. Of note the bridge was recently upgraded when the cycleway was added so if there was some technical requirement to have higher barriers then surely they should have changed then.
Using the same design as Upper Queen St is Symonds St which is even higher above the motorway.
Probably the highest barrier (other than K Rd) was on one part of the Newton Rd Bridge. The first section below is the part that crosses over Ian McKinnon Dr and has an addition to the base barrier while the second image is over the motorway itself and doesn’t have the extra addition.
Lastly here’s Bond St and again what appears to be a pretty standard height barrier.
All of the examples above are clearly been in place for some time. They seem to strike good balance between safety and not being too obstructive. Sure it’s entirely possible that something or someone could go over the barrier yet if I can only think of one example recently where there’s been an incident from any of these bridges. It’s a shame the NZTA has taken such an overcautious approach to the off-ramp, in the process removing some of the elements that would have made the route so special.
Here’s a couple of my favourite comments from twitter when I highlighted this issue yesterday.
— Chris Owen (@icebirdmail) August 22, 2015