We’ve known for some time the East-West
Link Connections is shaping up to be one of those projects that tries to crack a nut by using a sledgehammer. The thin lines that AT/NZTA draw on the maps make the project look small, but in reality, if built this project is going to be massive. It will involve significant reclamation of the northern side of the Mangere Inlet to build a four lane motorway limited access road – with the truck lobby wanting even fewer intersections than currently proposed. As part of the 1960s nostalgic thinking around this new road, it even appears from the maps that the new road will cut off access to the foreshore, just at a time when the Onehunga side of the inlet is about to have its foreshore restored. In addition to the new road along the foreshore the project also involves:
- Adding new lanes on both sides of SH20 between Queenstown Road and Neilson Street.
- A massive new motorway interchange at Neilson St to link people directly to the new road and to Onehunga as well as widening Onehunga Harbour Rd to four lanes.
- Widening Neilson Street to four lanes and upgrading the Captain Springs Road/Neilson Street intersection – note: it seems the widening is only as far as Captain Springs Rd, not all the way to Church St.
- The extension of the Waikaraka cycleway to Sylvia Park
- Widening of Sylvia Park Road to four lanes and direct ramps to SH1 south of Mt Wellington
- Adding new lanes on both sides of SH1 between the new ramps and Princes Street
Even at this early stage the NZTA suggest the entire project will cost $1 billion. If they carry on with the current thinking then my guess is that the cost will probably start pushing up closer to $1.5 billion.
AT/NZTA say they are going to be working closely with local community on some aspects of the project and one of those is the Neilson St interchange – or Gloucester Park Interchange as they now seem to be calling it.
I’ve been sent a presentation following a stakeholder workshop earlier this month looking at the options for this interchange. I don’t know which stakeholders are involved but one will almost certainly be The Onehunga Enhancement Society (TOES). They’re one of the key groups behind current foreshore restoration but they’re also the ones who came up with a horrific alternative plan to put an eight lane road along the foreshore and all the way to Highbrook. As I understand it, one line of their thinking is that if a massive new road is built then as mitigation they can replicate the current foreshore restoration on the inlet. While the eight lane motorway thankfully isn’t happening it seems AT/NZTA are considering some of their ideas for the interchange.
The following images show the potential options being considered for the interchange, in all you can see the route for the rail line to get to the airport.
Option A1 is a version of the TOES concept and amongst other things would require a new bridge across the harbour to go with the two motorway bridges, a rail bridge and a walking/cycling bridge. There’s also a tunnel to link people heading south on SH20 to the E-W Link. It’s actually slightly scaled back from the TOES original version which had the blue connection also as a new bridge.
Option B1 is the NZTA’s concept and is what is shown in the first image. They note it will have impacts on:
- Coastal Edge
- Hopua Tuff Ring
- Sea Scout Hall
- Local access
As you can see from the image, it doesn’t add any additional road crossings of the harbour, and instead sends traffic to/from Onehunga or the motorway via a new bridge over the motorway.
The NZTA have also come up with two composite options which they’re calling Option C.
I personally can’t see the options that require a new bridge across the inlet stacking up, which means the most likely options to be selected would be B1 or C2
As the new road is intended to be limited access – i.e. no driveways – these plans would make it impossible to access some of the neighbouring properties such as the wharf. There are three options for how to retain local road and therefore walking/cycling access.
Option A is a tunnel under the motorway and new Onehunga Harbour Rd
Option B is a bridge over the top of the road – this would likely link in with option A and both option Cs above.
Option C is what they call an inner loop but which appears to be a tunnel using part of the old rail designation.
They then combine each of the interchange options with each of the local road options, with each to go through an assessment to determine the best combination. The presentation also notes that following the workshop AT/NZTA agreed they would assess a few other aspects. It suggests not all are listed but includes:
- Where local roads can go over, not under, the East West Connection arterial.
- Possibilities for cut and cover of the East West Connection arterial opposite the Wharf area.
- Alternatives for the suggested bridge, which crosses SH20 in the current options, to become a tunnel.
As you can see just from this small section alone, it is likely to be hugely expensive to build this road, which will probably do little for truck congestion because the road will be filled with single occupant cars. If the project was really about providing better access for trucks then they’d be getting on with fixing Neilson St and adding measures like truck lanes. That they’re not doing this only adds to my feeling that this is a make-work scheme for road planners/engineers, and a predetermined solution in search of a problem – much like another road crossing of the Waitemata Harbour. There’s probably also a case of those working on the project being beholden to the crazy demands of the stakeholders such as TOES and the trucking companies.