There have been a couple of pieces of news out of Wellington in the last few days.
The first is that the NZTA have decided to build the pedestrian and cycle path between Petone and Ngauranga on the seaward side of the rail tracks – the other option was between the tracks and the road.
The path will be 3m wide with a 1m shoulder on each side which is to allow space should there need to be maintenance on the rail network. It certainly looks better and will be a more pleasant experience than being squeezed between the road and the tracks. It will obviously require a lot of reclamation to occur along the waterfront and will be interesting to see how that goes with consenting. The NZTA say that as they haven’t finalised the plans yet it may be possible to design it so it could also provide an opportunity to straighten the rail tracks in the future.
Being flat it would be a nice easy ride and on a nice day it would be a fantastic way to arrive into the city from the north – although probably not much fun if a strong southerly was blowing.
Connections on either side of the route are currently being funded as part of the Government’s Urban cycleway fund to the tune of $19 million however this middle section falls outside of that funding. The total project is expected to cost about $54 so that would put this part with reclamation at $35 million an isn’t expected to start till 2019 financial year.
An interesting aspect to the project is that it isn’t just about creating a cycleway but also about improving the reliance of the road and rail networks beside it. This should help prevent a repeat of what happened in 2013 when a large chunk of the rail formation was washed away disrupting travel for a week.
Overall this looks like a good decision from the NZTA and it sounds very similar to what’s needed for Seapath in Auckland
About 50 properties have been spared a date with the bulldozer after it was announced the Petone-Grenada highway, north of Wellington, will not include a link road through Takapu Valley or a wider motorway at Tawa.
The New Zealand Transport Agency has revealed the route the proposed $270 million highway will follow between Wellington’s northern suburbs and Hutt Valley, saving motorists as much as 30 minutes on return trips.
The highway will carve through the Horokiwi Crest between Petone and Tawa, providing a four-lane link with extra crawler lanes on the Petone side.
A total of 126 land parcels will be affected, many owned by public organisations and many related to development proposals.
Four new interchanges will be constructed, providing better access on and off State Highway 1 and 2 at either end as well as access to the highway for those living in Grenada Village.
The proposed route is below.
One of the more interesting decisions is that the NZTA have now said they will only upgrade the motorway through Tawa if they need to in the future after the current projects are finished. This is an approach I wish they’d take with more projects.
Ms Bleakley says the Transport Agency has decided to focus on managing future traffic growth within the existing corridor, with the option of putting in place a ‘managed motorway’ (similar to the smart motorway currently being built south of Ngauranga), or a similar approach, should traffic growth require it. Only minor designation changes will be required and property impacts will be minimal.
This means that the other two options – a road through Takapu Valley, or taking property to widen the motorway north of Tawa to six lanes – will not be required as part of the proposed project.
“Over the last year and a half, we have been undertaking rigorous investigations, while working with the public and councils to make sure we understood what was important to the region. This work has helped us to identify how we can best harness the remarkable benefits of this project while minimising its effects.
“Having examined the evidence, we are confident that we can manage future traffic growth within the existing corridor north of Tawa through a ‘managed motorway’ approach if required in the future, and by utilising the shoulders of the existing road.”
I’m guessing that with the level of growth that Wellington is experiencing that even the NZTA were struggling to justify spending more.
However when speaking about justification there were a number of comments in the NZTA press release that set my BS detector off. I don’t know enough about the project to say categorically that what the NZTA claim is false but many of the comments are similar to ones they’ve made about other dubious projects. For example, the NZTA claim this route will allow Wellington to reap economic benefits. This isn’t to say there aren’t any but my guess they’re probably not as big as claimed for a couple of reasons.
The NZTA say the new motorway will cost $250 to $270 million which seems extremely unlikely given the size of the road and terrain it travels through. As a comparison the Hobsonville motorway opened in 2011 covering about the same distance and which cost $220 million. This project seems to require massive civil works to move hillsides. To see the impact watch the video on the Stuff article to see impact. Higher costs will obviously reduce the BCR of the route.
They claim time savings of up to 30 minutes per day. This is likely to be mostly people travelling to east-west destinations but I wonder how many actually need to do that. Even getting the demand and time savings results a little wrong could have big impacts on the projected usage and therefore the benefits that accrue from the project.