Normally organisations don’t make announcements late on the last Friday afternoon before Christmas unless it’s about something they don’t  want much coverage of by the media. Last Friday the NZTA made an announcement that would fit in that category – they’re now going to try and obtain consent for the East-West Link. This is the $1 billion+ project that will create a new barrier between to the water right at a time when we’ve just spent nearly $30 million to fix the foreshore on the other side on Onehunga. It also comes right after Panuku Development Auckland announced that Onehunga would be one of their top priorities including the redevelopment of the Onehunga Wharf.

East-West Preferred Option

The NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport have taken another step towards construction of the East West Connections project, confirming that the preferred option will go ahead to the next stage.

The project, which is one of the top three transport priorities for Auckland, will now start gathering the necessary planning approvals and consents to protect the route between Onehunga and Mt Wellington.

This follows a wide range of feedback received in July on the preferred approach. The project will improve connections into and out of Onehunga-Penrose and also speed up bus travel times between Mangere, Otahuhu and Sylvia Park.

“A team of consultants has now been engaged to start the planning and consent phase of this key project,” says the NZ Transport Agency’s Highway Manager Brett Gliddon.

“People will also have more opportunities to provide further input and feedback as the design is developed.”

The Transport Agency plans to apply to the Environmental Protection Authority for the Notice of Requirement to obtain the necessary land and approvals for the project later in 2016.

At the same time, the Transport Agency and Auckland Transport are planning to start work in early 2016 on a package of early improvements. These are aimed at providing some early benefits to freight and public transport users on both the motorway and local road network.

Auckland Transport spokesperson Andrew Scoggins says this will include upgrades needed for the introduction of the new south Auckland public transport network. This incorporates an upgraded Mangere town centre bus station and new bus stops in Otahuhu town centre.

“Auckland Transport and the Transport Agency will also begin improving journeys for drivers moving around busy Onehunga local roads, starting with four laning a section of Neilson Street.”

The Southwestern Motorway will also be widened to four lanes in each direction between Queenstown Road and Neilson Street and bus shoulder lanes will be added all the way to Kirkbride Road towards the airport.

As Cam pointed out well in this post recently, Option F which is what most closely resembles the final option they’ve chosen appears to fail when an incremental benefit-cost ratio is calculated.

As I’ve said before, this project is like trying to crack a nut with a sledgehammer. Absolutely some parts of the existing road need to have some money spent on it but over a billion?

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60 comments

  1. One of the many insane things about this project is that they are doing some of the work that would relieve the issues it is supposed to fix anyway, the four laning of Neilson St being one of them. How about doing that, fixing some of the intersections with Onehunga Mall and general area and see how that goes before spending another billion dollars?

    And then there will be the ongoing requirement to four lane the WRR further to the north. What happens when they get to the 3 lane tunnels? Another bore? When is this madness going to stop?

    1. So much inspiration left…

      We will fix congestion with an extra harbour bridge
      Then we will fix congestion by widening of the northern motorway
      Then we will fix congestion with a bypass of the CMJ to the west, along the Herne Bay / Pt Chevalier forehore. Surely the residents will be totally fine with that.

  2. Trust you will be all over this with notifying of any avenues for public submission.
    I still can’t get my head around the Onehunga end interchange… It seems there are multiple ramps for some routes like they want to make some kind of giant roundabout.

  3. Thanks for that info. Surprised that this project is moving so quickly. Anyone know when construction is suppose to start? Also is the design of the Onehunga interchange final. There was a post a few weeks ago here http://greaterakl.wpengine.com/2015/10/27/east-west-and-gloucester-park-interchange/ discussing various options. I like options A1 and C1. And also like the talk about putting the new road through a cut and cover tunnel in the Onehunga Wharf area (which will also solve the rail connection issue).

  4. Love it how they highlight the public transport aspects. What percentage of the billion dollars is being spent on improving PT?
    They know aucklanders want to see better PT so instead they spend all the money on roads and claim a couple of tiny PT improvements.

  5. Merry Christmas to the trucking industry and Port of Tauranga! You have your shiny, expensive, and unecessary new toy. I hope you like it 🙂

    Love,
    Simon Bridges and the NZTA

  6. Why is this project moving so quickly? Because it is being vigorously pushed by the usual suspect roading lobbies: the AA, Business Forum and Road Carriers. They don’t really give a toss about whether this madcap project stacks up economically, it’s about taxpayer-funded corporate welfare. One can only imagine the screaming from that lot if the government spent $1 billion or more on affordable housing or to make a meaningful reduction in child poverty.
    The PT improvements were going to happen anyway, and are just the lipstick tarting up this roading pig.

  7. Bryce, there is no point opposing this. The Minister has decided it will happen, the NZTA are fully on board, Auckland Transport seem to be in behind it, and the NZ Herald have shown no interest whatsoever.

    It’s a done deal.

  8. This is just crazy, so much money when as per Patrick’s post this morning the roading network is complete but there are so many holes in the public transport network, for a billion dollars you could fix Nelson st, electrify to Pukekohe, and make a good start on rail to the airport or light rail

  9. What if they were to downgrade it from motorway to avenue? They could still move a lot of traffic, while keeping it at human scale.

  10. “The project, which is one of the top three transport priorities for Auckland…”
    Let me guess; the top three are all roads?

  11. Hopefully the EPA will be all over this in the same manner as the Basin flyover. Consideration of alternatives with less impact/more benefit (e.g. upgrade Neilson St) will be key.

    1. Do you know what has to happen for that to occur?

      It does seem that the Basin Reserve set a strong legal precedent, which has been ignored.

      1. Consideration of alternatives is a must, especially if effects are significant. This is one of the reasons why Basin got rejected; alternatives such as Option X wasn’t sufficiently considered and examined. EPA undoubtedly will apply same approach to this current application.

        1. Only if a submitter has the time, money and energy to put up expert witnesses and organise a coherent submission will this happen. A BOI is unlikely to consider alternatives of their own volution.

          1. How much $ does that need Cam? Can you try crowd funding it via givealittle? Plenty of support out there..

          2. You’d be looking at least 20-30k for a professional attempt, with 12 professional witnesses that have some experience and credibility. Bare minimum. Not easy to crowd-fund.

          3. That was meant to say 1-2 witnesses, not 12. Ideally of course you’d bring a lawyer, a planner, a traffic specialist, maybe someone for ecology. But who can afford that in community groups, unless they have members amongst themselves? And if these work pro-bono, the court may in extremis actually consider them unprofessional/dubious, because they are obviously NOT working for money, but “have an axe to grind” (not saying that its true, but its a classical criticism raised by opponents).

          4. Fair enough it’s not a level playing field.. neither was it at the Basin Reserve. Still the architects did it. Let’s have a bit more “how we can” and leas “why we can’t”!!

    1. I would have thought that making the third lanes exit only and the section that is a merge lane currently into a bus lane (not T2/T3/Heavy vehicles, bus only) would have reduced some of the congestion at the merge point, reducing the late merging and increasing the flow.

    1. It certainly creates some odd situations. Maybe it will give Council some spine in standing up for better mitigation – but they (as in overall Council, both political and bureaucratic arms) certainly don’t sound like they are willing to oppose this madness.

  12. A questiion. A prominent Auckland leftie told me recently that both Len Brown and Generation Zero had supported Option D, i.e. the pseudo-motorway smashed through Mangere East. Sounded like bullshit to me. Can anyone give citations?

    1. I think there are a number of prominent lefties who are just as motorway mad as some of the government – particularly the older baby boomer ones. Why? because they assess transport policy by looking out of their car window. Alternatively I think there are a number of righties who think that what’s going on is madness and more needs to be invested in alternative modes to suit how the city is changing.

  13. Road runoff (no doubt including the odd hazmat spill) straight into the Manukau Harbour, so that on the outgoing tide the swimmers at the new beach can get the real Penrose experience. Lovely.

    1. Nah – those times are past. The downsides are much more insidious – a constant perpetuation of the roads-centric model. This road will have primo mitigation. The hazardous truck spill will be somewhere totally else, because other roads get neglected, and our transport system made even more dependent on trucks only.

  14. Sorry guys, but as one who uses that area commercially it is one project that is needed. There may be some aspects that could be designed better, but as far as I am concerned, the sooner it gets started the better.

  15. Like it or not, but Auckland needs to have industrial areas, and that road services a major industrial area. It provides the only access to Tauranga’s Metroport at Southdown, and a whole lot of other rust belt industries in the Southdown area. They might not be glamourous industries with nice shiny offices, but they are essential for Auckland (and in the case of Metroport and KiwiRail at Southhdown the whole of New Zealand), and they need good road access.

    1. Evan – No, not at $i billion plus when we would get better value for our bucks, from immediate Government commitment to the CRL and to rail through Mangere to the airport removing some pressures from our already mature roading system.
      It is time to move our investment away from investing only in roads – we have concentrated on this mode alone, for far too long.

  16. We are talking one particular stretch of road here, not roading in general. The CRL isn’t going to help a container truck get to Metroport any quicker, or a load of building waste get to Ward’s yard any quicker. By all means look at the overall picture, but not at the expense of this particular stretch of road.

    1. What makes you so sure the CRL won’t do anything for freight?

      The CRL will create much faster and more reliable, and vastly greater capacity, trips from the south compared to driving. So many commuters will shift from traffic on the motorway to a seat on the southern line. The Dowes-Thompson effect indicates that while some other commuters will take their place, it will be fewer than before because the equilibrium point will be lowered by the very fast and reliable rail trips available as an alternative.

      In other words, building the CRL will reduce commuter traffic on the southern motorway and its approach roads, which makes things faster and more reliable for trucks getting to metroport and everywhere else across the south east. Let’s not forget heavy vehicles make up only 4% of traffic on Aucklands main arterials, it’s the other 96% of traffic in the way of the trucks you should be worried about.

      The problem with the east west concepts is that they are basically just new motorway/expressway links, adding new interchanges to the motorways and intersections with local roads. Those new links will just get filled up with light traffic, just like before but even worse because of the new interchanges. This is the Dowes-Thompson effect again: more road links means more traffic on both the new roads and the existing ones.

      You want more traffic and slower trucks? Then building more ramps into Sh1 and Sh20 is a great place to start!

  17. Sorry to disagree with you. While trucks may only make up about 4 percent of the traffic on Auckland’s arterials, on the stretch of road we are discussing here it would be much higher. At certain times of the day it would not surprise me if it was in the 50 percent range or even higher; so having passengers catching a train into town via the CRL would do very little to speed up the transit of a container load of goods bound for Tauranga via Metroport. I sincerely hope that the CRL will help reduce congestion on the Southern Motorway, but this stretch of road dictates what happens after the truck leaves the Southern Motorway, and let’s not forget that it also provides the only link between SH1 and SH20, other than the interchange at Manurewa. Also, I am a little perplexed as to why the CRL is being discussed here at all. I was not aware that the two projects were competing against each other on a them or us basis. As far as I am aware work on the CRL is scheduled to start in the new year.

    1. Sure Evan, but the east west plan doesn’t do anything for the existing road you are talking about. If we were taking about stopping parking and putting in truck only lanes on the existing road then you would have a point. But they’re not planning on fixing that road.

      It’s about building a new almost-motorway between the two motorways. You think that’s not going to fill up with 96% cars like all the other motorways?

    2. “Also, I am a little perplexed as to why the CRL is being discussed here at all”

      I don’t know why you’re perplexed – after all you’re the one who raised CRL and linked it to this project. I quote your comment above:
      “The CRL isn’t going to help a container truck get to Metroport any quicker, or a load of building waste get to Ward’s yard any quicker”

      Nick pointed out exactly how CRL does. As for the other point, about surface road improvements, that was the exact point that was made by those who attended the workshops run by NZTA/AT – as I and many others did.

      Were they listening? Well obviously not, because they’re not planning on fixing any of the *existing* roads you say have problems now.
      All they’re doing is infilling the Onehunga foreshore and building a motorway to motorway link “Limited Access Arterial Road” – which amounts to same thing as a motorway.

      Only it costs 10 times at least what the local road improvements would, and will deliver 1/100th of the benefits for those local business you claim are suffering under a congestion blight – a blight that is definitely one of their, and their neighbour industries own making I might add.

      So even if the local roads are full with 96% of the traffic on those local roads being trucks – this monster madness East/West road won’t actually help them very much. However, CRL removing car traffic traffic from the motorways will have a bigger and longer term effect than this motorway will.
      And as Nick points out, this road, without any other changes, will be filled up with 96% of it being cars, not trucks in short order.

      So tell me again what is the problem this road is seeking to solve?

  18. I have a sneaking feeling that I am the only one here who actually uses that stretch of road as part of my daily employment. And yes, I am, shock horror, one of those nasty truck drivers that uses the road to service industries in the area, after previously working in the area (Captain Springs Road) since the 1980s.

    1. You mean the road feestoned with parked cars? These parked cars for of all the workers who frequent/work in the industries you service in your truck.
      Those same workers whose employers are not bothered with providing sufficient off street parking, so that they can park on premise without hindering the trucks on the roads that they need to operate?

      Those same business who are using a public road for private parking and then have the temerity to demand a multi-billion dollar solution to the problems they create.
      Yet oddly enough, for all the costs, the East West road won’t actually do a lot.
      And even worse the even more obvious solution of banning parked cars and truck only lanes is ignored yet will be the most cost-effective option to try, can be done quickly and easily without destroying any ones business.

      And which road in particular am I talking about here? Captain Springs Road? Yes, in part, but also every other damn road in Onehunga. East of Onehunga Mall.

      So why not go take your beef to those who own and run the industries you work with, who are so stingy with their land use, that they won’t provide off street parking for their workers to make your life easier.

      And yes, I drive these roads, not every day, but then its patently obvious that the folks at AT and NZTA and everyone else promulgating these schemes don’t ever go there either.
      And yet you put extreme faith in their ability to magic the right solution out of nowhere.

      Whereas the predictions about how this road will pan out once built, which go with the grain of every other road ever built in Auckland, and yet you somehow think this one will be so special it will fix the issues?

      Yeah. Right.

  19. No, I am not talking about parked cars, they are part of the scenery. I am talking about queues of traffic stretching back to Waikaraka Park of cars and trucks trying to get through the Onehunga Mall traffic lights; I am talking about queues stretching back to the Great South Road lights – both sides of the road, most of them trucks. At many times of the day, if you can drive the couple of ks between the two motorways in under an hour you can consider yourself lucky. However, I don’t have a beef about what is proposed, What I am commenting on is the opposition to the project purely on what seems to be ideological grounds – “if it’s a road, let’s oppose it” seems to be the common thread here. There are plenty of other projects that have far less going for them, but this project seems to have pressed quite a few buttons. And let’s not forget, that at present there are no connections for traffic travelling north on the Southern Motorway to go west, or for traffic coming from the west to go south on the Southern Motorway.

    1. Firstly, many of those queues you talk about would not exist if the roads weren’t reduced to single lane each way because of parked cars (and trucks) making a 2 lane road each way a single lane each way.
      With two lanes at entrance AND EXIT of every intersection, you’d have double the throughput per light cycle.

      Remove those cars, make the left hand lanes truck lanes only at the bare minimum, and the congestion will markedly reduce. Won’t go away entirely.
      And maybe not all those truck movements need to take place when they currently do [Metroport looking at you], so a bit of sensible time-shifting on some of those will help as well.

      As for opposition to it. Its not because its a road, its because its a very expensive and wasteful roading only project, and it is totally unclear about the problem its trying to solve and how it will do so.
      About the only thing about it that is actually clear, is how monumentally expensive and damaging it will be, per-km or for the whole thing.

      And within 5 years it, like the adjacent roads, too will be chock full of traffic unless other measures are taken. So ask yourself, are there better ways to spend $ billions and get a more lasting improvement? one that works for more than 5 years?
      There surely are other more worthy road projects than this one, that could deliver way more benefits, in a much quicker timeframe, for more people than this motorway will. Hence the opposition.

      And if you think its worthwhile, would you and your mates be prepared to back it yourself, by paying a toll each way to use it? And would all your other trucking mates do the same?
      Or would you refuse to do so because the actual benefits it delivers are not worth the toll? Because if not beneficial for commercial truckies and freight operators, who would benefit from it?

      The lack of connections between SH1 and SH20 is by design. The WRR route was/is designed to take traffic completely off SH1 and divert it West and North via SH16/SH18.
      NZTA cannot and will not predict what impact the WRR opening will have on SH20 and SH1 (nor on what the SH18 to SH1 links further north will also have).
      You would think that they would be able to predict the effects, but they say they cannot.

      And this is the biggest single reason why this road should not go ahead. At the very least until after WRR is open and the traffic patterns have settled [e.g. sometime after 2018 at the earliest].
      Because NZTA may find that this road is not actually needed, or [more likely] the proposed design is no longer appropriate by then as the traffic usage of SH20 has totally changed now WRR is opened.

      The original East/West motorway link was proposed by the original De-Leuw Cather Report back in the 1960s, since then NZTA, its forebears and successive Governments have been religous in the extreme in following the roading portion of that design to the letter. Ignoring completely over the same timeframe the PT aspects of that report, which were also mandated to occur, either in advance, or at the same time.

      The East West motorway portion was a “may be required” footnote in the original design. Thats why the connections are not there before now, and also why they should not be built as proposed anytime soon.

      Its not “mindless opposition to road building”, its “opposition to mindless road building”. Mindless because NZTA are mindlessly following, some 60 year old plan, that they have completely ignored half of [the PT portion], and for which it said East West might be needed, but not until after WRR was fully built.

      1. Being looking at this today. All pretty close to my backyard. Yes I think once Waterview connection is open it will probably feed a monster of car use through around this area, though also off setting some?. The rail depots etc having being amped up & more commercially viable of recent years that has created a large part of the trucks all trying to get to and from this area from industrial surrounds. Surely if they really want long term planning we would be better off investing in the Avondale – Southdown rail line?! Wouldn’t this keep a lot of the freight on the line coming from out West at least? Then again I guess it’s more trying to connect to freight movements from East and South, but freight depots could be amped up in these areas like Wiri to spread the load so to speak.

        1. Without a doubt freight, and container trucks in particular are a big part of the problem, so must be a big part of the solution.

          They could for instance help themselves a lot by staggering their arrival and departures from Metroport and other container yards better than they do. Right now there are no slot management systems used at Metroport.
          Truckies can turn up and drop off or pick up anytime right now, so that exactly what they, and they generally do that in the day as that suits them the best. In fact a booking system would be better – and then Metroport can manage the congestion they cause a lot better.

          However, if the 96% of traffic on Auckland roads that are not trucks clog up the roads and motorways then all the East West motorways in the world won’t help.

          The lack of NZTA certainty on the effects of WRR opening is a massive red flag. So any large scale projects like this one need to take a back seat until the WRR effects are well understood.
          Otherwise we could tip both SH1 and SH20 into permanent gridlock, like what happened when SH20 linked to SH1 at Manukau – the effects of which were something which NZTA claimed they could not forsee, yet it was obvious to everyone else what was going to happen.
          And so it was no surprise when that part of the motorway jammed solid. Til they added ramp signals. But even now it still gets massive tail backs at certain times of the day.

  20. I don’t think the Southdown-Avondale railway line would solve very much. Because of changing technology, and the attitude of the old railways management to wagon freight lots, the country has geared up to handling a goodly percentage of its freight by container – in fact I wouldn’t be surprised if NZ is one of the leaders in the world-wide containerisation revolution. The result is goods and services, no matter how small, travelling the countryside by container, either on a truck or train. This has resulted in two large container yards being established in Neilson Street, Onehunga, by Metroport and Kiwi Rail, together with an adjacent trucking logistics facility, which has resulted in streets in the area becoming clogged with trucks shuttling containers back and forth 24/7. Probably the only long term solution would be to shift those container yards out of town, to somewhere such as Drury, for southbound traffic or Kumeu for north-bound traffic – there isn’t enough room any more at Wiri – but I can’t see that happening any time soon simply because of the costs involved and the huge amount of land that would be swallowed up. Let’s not forget that when those yards were established at Southdown, the area was little more than an industrial wasteland adjacent to the Pikes Point rubbish tip which was pouring leachate into an already heavily polluted Manukau Harbour.

  21. Evan – I agree whole-heartedly with the viewpoints expressed by Nick and Greg and I do not drive a truck. The problem is that Government policies and NZTA action have served Auckland very poorly for a long time and the bad decision making is now really manifesting itself, as Auckland grows rapidly.
    The criminal element is that the present Government are not reading the statistical evidence that is piling up and continue spending our tax money in the same old outmoded way on motorways and furthermore, have not changed direction by setting the platform for investment in public transport. Clever cities overseas do it, why not us.
    I just felt I wanted to thank you for entering the debate with your coal face experience and for the manner it was conducted.

  22. The problem with this stretch of road, and I am talking about Sylvia Park Road as well as Church Street-Neilson Streets as that what were little more than streets servicing industrial areas and major sporting facilities have now become major thoroughfares and major cogs in the east-west network. The whole area should have been sorted out ages ago, probably when the south-western motorway was first mooted, and while I agree that public transport should be getting a much larger slice of the investment pie, I can’t see it sorting out the mess in this area.

    1. Yes, it needs work, but their own methodology does not support their chosen solution. There is no good case that this is the best or even a good solution. http://greaterakl.wpengine.com/2015/12/03/costs-benefits-and-east-west-connections/

      Quicker cheaper less destructive options could be built on existing routes first. They look like they are cracking a nut with a gold-plated sledgehammer which causes opportunity costs elsewhere in the city and nation.

      Additionally land use changes in the area are already observable; industry is being priced out because of the proximity to the city and other good natural attributes and residential mixed use looks to be taking over; industry heading further south; building a $1.5 billion truck access highway just as industry leaves the area looks real smart.

  23. You should see the HUGE new factory going up in Neilson Street where the scrap yard used to be. No sign on it yet who the building is for though. Goes with the new Coca Cola factory at the end of Alfred Street, and don’t forget the council wants to shift the speedway from Western Springs to either Waikaraka Park or Mount Smart. Not too many residences showing their noses there yet, and I certainly wouldn’t fancy living near Ward’s yard or the transfer station

  24. I would like to see the other end of Onehunga regain some of its former glory. There’s some fabulous old houses in there indicating a glorious past.

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