The NZ Herald reports:

In a surprise announcement, the Government has today unveiled advanced plans for a combined transport and housing package in Auckland. The centrepiece of the announcement is an “Eastern Ring Route” between Takapuna and Drury to complement the soon to be finished Western Ring Route and take pressure off State Highway 1.

The 44 kilometre long route, including a new Eastern Alignment for crossing the Waitemata Harbour, was announced by Transport Minister Simon Bridges after a snap cabinet meeting on the issue and ongoing frustration about growing congestion in New Zealand’s biggest city.

“This is a bold response to the big issues faced by Auckland,” explained Mr Bridges at a press conference following the announcement. “With the Auckland Transport Alignment Project highlighting major issues being faced in the west and south of Auckland, we have made a well targeted approach by focusing our next major motorway project in the north and east of the region.”

Confirmed as a 6 lane motorway that will replace Lake Road in Devonport before passing under the Waitemata Harbour to the east of the Port and continuing underground along the old Eastern Highway to avoid angering core National Party voters before emerging again around Glen Innes and linking in with the AMETI and then Mill Road projects. The “Eastern Ring Route” has a currently estimated cost of around $25 billion and a likely construction timeframe of 3-4 years. The project’s route is shown in the map below:


When questioned on the scale of the project’s cost, Mr Bridges appeared unfazed. “Oh it’s OK, we’ll just turn it into a PPP!” he said to surprised reporters.

For the first time in New Zealand the transport project will also contribute directly to addressing Auckland’s housing shortage. Housing Minister Nick Smith joined Mr Bridges to announce that the earth from the twin 9km tunnels would be used to reclaim parts of Shoal, Ngataringa and Hobson Bays. “Auckland needs housing and we need somewhere to put all of the dirt from the tunnels” he said.

He added “We want to ensure more Aucklanders can get a slice of the quarter acre paradise and so we’ll be passing legislation to ensure the new sections created will stay forever at a minimum of 1,000m². We believe this will also help allay the fears of nearby residents concerned that people not like them may move in to the area.”

Support for the project from business groups was quickly forthcoming. Stephen Selwood, Chief Executive of the NZ Council for Infrastructure Development stating: “this is a fantastic announcement by the government and exactly the project that we have been pushing for over the last few years. Our members are particularly pleased as this will be excellent for their balance sheets… sorry, I mean it will be excellent for Auckland for decades to come!”

On the project’s high cost, Mr Selwood noted that “it’s a good project because it’s expensive… sorry, I mean it’s expensive because it’s a good project.”

Outgoing Auckland Mayor Len Brown lent his support for the proposal: “This is the kind of big thinking that Auckland needs if we’re to accommodate an extra million people in the next 10 years. This is why we need to get on with introducing motorway tolls to pay for the City Rail Link so that all our normal transport budget can go on projects like this!”

Local support also appeared strong, with Devonport-Takapuna Local Board Chair Joseph Bergin highlighting excitement on the Board’s behalf that something would finally be done to fix the highly congested Lake Road. “While replacing Lake Road with a 6 lane elevated motorway that carves its way through Mt Victoria is certainly a novel way to solve the issues faced along this corridor, we are glad to see transport money being spent in our Local Board area and not in West Auckland, South Auckland or the CBD,” Mr Bergin said in an email to the Herald.

Chief Executive of the Ministry of Transport, Martin Matthews, whose staff led the month-long investigation into the project, was particularly enthused about its potential to be used by driverless vehicles and the possibility of the project replacing the Eastern Railway Line with a concrete “truckway”. “Rail is such 19th century technology and we are on the cusp of a technological breakthrough that will enable the productive use of infrastructure like this,” Mr Matthews stated from his 5 car garage.

Construction on the project is due to begin in August, with the first stage being a 40 metre cut into the side of Mt Victoria in Devonport for the harbour tunnel’s northern portal.

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  1. What are great idea. Think of all the high paying construction jobs it will create. Probably need to bring in more cheap labour from Asia. But if we make a visa free 4 year working agreement with China then no problem. Also this project could be fast tracked though the RMA process and given premission to work 24/7 to allow the project meet its deadline.

    I guessing that the government will need to make a deal with its private partners so that public transport does not compete with this project. If they made it illegal for AT to run buses and train in east Auckland then it would allow the project to charge tolls to repay the cost of the project within 25 years. The project will need to bring in over $150 million per year in profit from tolls to get private companies interested.

    The spare trains can be used to allow increased services on the western and southern lines. Plus the H &E buses can be used along the central corridor, perhaps to increase the frequency to one bus every 2 minutes.

    It solves so many problems at once. Plus it will boost car sales in the Auckland as each person over 18 will need to own a car. This increase in consumer spending will help the economy grow and help NZ to avoid deflation.

    It will reduce crime in the eastern surburbs as poor people will not be able to get there (we all know that PT is the primary way that criminals move about). Under age drinking will be reduced as people under 18 in the eastern surburbs will need to be dropped off / pick up by socially responsible parents in the city.

    This project will solve a number of Auckland’s transport and social problems.

  2. It’s about bloody time! Finally the government is doing something smart about these horrible congestion problems that TomTom keeps telling us about.

  3. What a great idea. I’m sure those angry NIMBYS near Lake Road and George Wood will finally be pleased with their road widening for which they have yearned. I’m surprised there isn’t a token walking and cycling package sprinkled onto it?

    1. It actually is a walking and cycling project: It’s going to provide a lovely roof over the Glen Innes cycleway! (Which will, admittedly, need to be lowered into a drainage culvert.)

    2. Actually that’s the weird thing about our current crop of NIMBYs. Their concern about things in their back yard is equalled by their disgust for cyclists and pedestrians, and the need to promote the car over everything else. So actually they probably wouldn’t mind a six lane motorway going through their garden. But a cycle lane, oh my god no.

    1. As EC is fond of pointing out, large swathes of the shore remain deprived and largely limited in transit options.

      This project would serve to rectify a historical wrong, when in an act of peninsular prejudice, the motorway was gifted to Northcote Point.

      If I have a quibble, it’s that I am unable to drive to Rangitoto.

      Given it just seems to sit there, brooding, and is assuredly asleep; it would seem a better choice as an initial landing point from the Far East.

      In the future it could be upgraded as part of the Penlink 2 project, with further links to Waiheke, the Coromandel and beyond ( subject to the volume of demands ).

  4. This goes right past my house. Ironically this would make my commute much easier as I’d be going against the traffic flow.

      1. The real irony is that we don’t even manage sewage that way any more, either. It’s all about slowing the flow down and spreading it over time, to avoid floods or effluent overflows. Friction in the form of settlement ponds, constructed wetlands and the like is the name of the game.

        1. Not quite an apt comparison.
          Sewage hardly ever has to take little Johnny or Jenny to school, or soccer practise, or a playdate.

          Its never in that much of a hurry to get to its destination – so it doesn’t mind taking the slow lane.

          1. Sewage also doesn’t write letters to the Herald or phone up city councillors, so for the more shy and timid of planners and civil engineers it’s a nicer problem to deal with than transport.

  5. What a relief it is 1 April – it is beyond a joke that someone could throw together a massively destructive plan like this in 10 days – why not have tunnels under all of Auckland while we are at it, divert all traffic away from residential and city areas and have only public transport or bikes allowed everywhere else!

  6. 1/4 good one. But seriously the last thing Lake Road needs is widening. What it needs is a bus lane and lots more services with useful destinations.

    1. Someone should have a design competition – dare we call it “WTF Do We Do With Lake Road?”
      Seriously, what can be done there? In it’s infinite wisdom Council have allowed some new houses to be built right up to the boundary, so there’s no chance of widening it now. I drove that route regularly last year and I couldn’t get my head around any options that would work. The Devonport Ferry is fine for city commuters, but buses heading for the North Shore and beyond are stuffed.

      1. A Bayswater Ave to Onewa Rd causway with bridge, the North Shore version of Tamaki Dr planted with Pohutukawas. Also run buses across and connect to a bus station at Onewa on the busway. I’m actually serious about this!

    1. How about suggesting re-instatement of the former Nelson rail line as a sustainable alternative. And when they laugh and scoff it will be entirely appropriate on this one day alone, to call them all a pack of fools!

      Seriously, I feel your frustration at the ingrained idiocy here.

      1. +1

        There was only a 30-mile section, partially completed, required to join the isolated Nelson railway to the rest of the NZR network, before it was stopped, re-thought, re-fought, and then stopped again. The amount of money spent on highways and arterial roads in the region (and fuel imports, etc.) since then would be interesting to compare with the cost of completing the railway back then.

  7. I think the tunnels everywhere and especially to Rangitoto are excellent ideas especially as today the new Health & Safety legislation comes in and reminds us we need to plan for every foreseeable risk. The tunnels could double as emergency repositories for the inevitable lava flows from Auckland’s next eruption. Leaves everything on the surface untouched while the lava flows through the tunnels. The construction industry then gets another go boring a whole new set; the commercial equivalent of perpetual motion.

  8. “and continuing underground along the old Eastern Highway to avoid angering core National Party voters before emerging again around Glen Innes” LMAO. That was my first clue – totally bought it until then 🙂

    1. That’s perhaps the most accurate part of the whole thing. There are influential groups who are pushing hard behind the scenes for exactly that.

      1. I have a set of plans in the corner of my office for just that. I inherited them a few years ago and it seems a shame to dump them.

    2. …..and by making a minor change to the wording to silence the unspoken truth: ‘and continuing underground along the old Eastern Highway before emerging again around Glen Innes’. And there you have it, a credible tunnel from Takapuna to Glen Innes long enough to keep the New Zealand Council of Infrastructure Development happy for decades.

      $25 billion – no sweat, we’ll sort out a PPP tomorrow. Viability is dependent on the closure of rail south of Papakura as we’ll need to have a steady stream of driver-less trucks to pay those road tolls to make it all stack up.

      1. “The new Nelson Street cycleway stands out in hot pink, arching over the log-jammed network, but carries few patrons”.

        Errrrr…. as opposed to all of the zero patrons it used to have when it was a disused motorway offramp? Now there was a giant waste of money – spending millions just to move the motorway exit from a right-side exit to a left-side exit.

        The whole thing is full of basic errors, actually – they manage to confuse rail patronage with total PT patronage.

        1. I like how they show a zoomed in shot of north western cycleway only big enough to fit two cyclists in the shot, and the voice over says “only 2 people use the cycleway” as if that’s all of them.

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