Auckland has no shortage of big road projects on the go at the moment but one of them that has at least improved a bit over the last few years has been the Northern Corridor Improvements project. This plans to convert the last remaining part of SH18 to full motorway standard with some direct motorway to motorway ramps to the north along with extra lanes. The improvement has come in the form of the NZTA now confirming that an extension of the Northern Busway will be part of the project. This a significant change as it had been specifically excluded by the government when the project was accelerated by the government in 2013 – which we understand was against the advice of the NZTA at the time.

The NZTA say the next stage of the project has now been approved which means they’ll be working towards getting consents before starting construction in 2018. As part of this they’ve now come out with an “Approved Draft Plan” which they say includes:

  • A new direct motorway to motorway connection between SH18 and SH1, separating motorway traffic from local road traffic.
  • Additional motorway lanes in both directions on the Northern Motorway (SH1) between Greville Road and Constellation Drive.
  • Extension of the Northern Busway from Constellation Bus Station to Albany Bus Station. Auckland Transport is investigating a new bus station along the extension in the Rosedale area.
  • A 5km dedicated shared walking and cycling path on the eastern side of the Northern Motorway (SH1), built alongside the new Busway extension and alongside Upper Harbour Highway (SH18) all the way to Albany Highway. A proposed new walking and cycling bridge across SH1 in Albany will connect Pinehill and East Coast Bays residents with Albany’s shopping, employment and university areas.
  • Local road improvements through the Constellation Drive and Caribbean Drive intersections, and a new Paul Matthews Road bridge.
  • Further investigation of a proposed bridge over SH18 to improve connections for the Unsworth Heights community

Here is the latest plan which also includes a few changes from the last time we saw the project almost a year ago. The main changes I can see compared to then are:

  • They’ve now clarified the connections around Paul Matthews Rd
  • They’ve dropped a big swooping on-ramp providing a direct connection from Albany Expressway to the motorway southbound.
  • Previously buses would use the bridge at McClymonts Rd to access the busway station before looping back to the motorway via Oteha Valley Rd. Now a new busway bridge will be built directly across the motorway to the station.
  • They’ve dropped a potential walking and cycling underpass from SH18 and seem to plan to include a connection as part of a new bridge extending Unsworth Dr
  • Previously there was a ‘potential path still under investigation’ showing along SH18 including west of Albany Highway. They’ve confirmed the walking and cycling path as far as Albany Highway but not west of there. This is a shame as the motorway has a much nicer grade than using Upper Harbour Highway

Northern Corridor - June-16 Design

On the busway they say in more detail

It’s now confirmed that the project will include an extension of the popular Northern Busway from Constellation Bus Station to Albany Bus Station. This means buses will be able to travel on a dedicated busway all the way to Albany, reducing travel times and improving public transport options. Auckland Transport is also investigating a new bus station and Park & Ride options in Rosedale along the new busway extension. As part of this, Auckland Transport will look at local road improvements and additional feeder services that could help transport people in and out of the station from the East Coast Bays, North Harbour, and Rosedale. Similar to Smales Farm, it is expected that this station will be a destination station for the many people who work, go to schools or attend sporting activities in the area. It will also provide another station to catch the Northern Express service to and from the city

Northern Corridor - June-16 Busway

As part of this final step before going to consenting they are giving people another chance to have a say on the project. Unfortunately, this post is too late for any of the open days but you can still email them or fill in their survey which is focused on a few specific issues like urban design, the new busway station, walking and cycling options and some other local road changes like the potential Unsworth Rd Bridge.

I’d like to see is the busway built first as it would have an added benefit of giving people options during the inevitable disruption that will occur during the construction of the motorway.

One aspect that the NZTA hasn’t talked about since the project was announced is the cost. Back then it was estimated at $450 million but that was without the busway.

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  1. Adding a park n ride to Rosedale Rd seems crazy. Rosedale Road is already heavily congested at peak hours, so by all means it should have a NEX station, but adding car parking will lead to frustration and even more turning conflicts with the cyclelanes there.

    1. I agree, but I wonder if maybe there is some land by the old tip or something that they might be trying to use opportunistically.

      1. I think they are planning on using the rubbish transfer site for this. It probably won’t have much parking at all (since they keep referring to Smales Farm Park N ride which doesn’t have parking). They are also apparently going to make improvements to Rosedale Road (which should have been done a decade ago when they rebuilt the road.. Should be 2 lanes in each direction since it is the main road between Browns Bay/Rothesay/Murrays Bay and Rosedale/North Harbour Industrial estate.
        AT have told me before this whole park n ride thing even came up that they were looking at replacing the Rosedale/Apollo/Hugh Green Drive roundabout with traffic lights (which should make a difference to the congestion as the roads are often clear on the other side of the roundabout since flows aren’t very even. It should make it safer for cyclists also).

  2. I went to the open day and was told that the estimated cost at this stage is $700 million.

    To me it looks like a reasonably good plan overall. I’m pleased to see the walking and cycling path, but very disappointed that it’s going to take five years before completion. The traffic going south is terrible already, especially at the weekends. 5 years is too long to take to build the extra lane from Greville Road.

    This is really only phase I, the southbound/westbound link and then the widening of the next bit of the northern motorway and potential widening of upper harbour highway maybe including bus lanes has to wait for the second harbour crossing, which may never eventuate.. Sadly we are just too slow at building these things.

    The story regarding the park-and-ride is that it will be very small. The intention is very much not have people parking there but to make it easier for people to get there by bus to help reduce some of the cars that are parking all over the place in the surrounding streets. The problem with park-and-rides is the public perception is that in order to use one of the bus stations there must be a big park-and-ride. There are so many threads on various groups about the need for bigger park and rides.

    1. hopefully the busway would be built first, because adding a lane southbound first would remove the bus shoulder which is an invaluable time saver for bus passengers

      however, building an additional southbound lane between the busway and motorway couls prove difficult

    2. Surely the busway has to go first to get the buses and a heap of the cars out of the way of on-line roadworks?

  3. So the big flow from the Takapuna direction to West Auckland (probably the largest count) doesn’t get a motorway to motorway connection. Perhaps they will do that in another 15 years and tell people that is needed as the last part of the Western ring route. I can see this project going on forever.

    1. They assured me at the open day that the wait time to get off SH1 and onto SH18 would be substantially improved by the way they have changed the lights getting off the motorway. The north/west bound direct link will be part of the next phase, which as you say is probably 15+ years away, by which stage we could have another million cars in Auckland to cope with.

      1. If they assured you that then they are misguided. The scheme will only remove the southbound offramp to SH18 traffic from the traffic that conflicts with the northbound offramp. All the rest will still be there. That will have some effect so it will be a bit better than it would have been. But today at 230pm the northbound offramp left turn queue already extended back onto the main motorway or 790 metres.
        Looks to me like they have gone and solved the wrong problem.

        1. It will only be a mater of time and the traffic will be built up stationary for a couple of ks on the motorway (SH18) waiting at the ramp signals like what happens where SH20 meets SH1 at Manukau and where SH16 meets SH1 northbound at the CMJ.

        2. That is very interesting. The lack of a direct SH1-SH18 North/West connection was one of the earliest things that I noticed about the current plan. I will make another submission suggesting that needs to be brought forward as part of this project. I’m not clear why it isn’t really, other than they felt like they had a temporary improvement, which sounds like it won’t be good enough.

          1. Agreed. SH1 northbound should get the connection. As should SH18 going city bound. This would complete the “ring” and keep it flowing. If we want backed up traffic stationary on the motorway, then this proposal would be perfect. Thanks.

          2. The structures are being built to allow for a southbound connection in the future. The piles that they are putting in will be able to take the weight of an additional southbound ramp. The argument is there is no point in doing this at this stage because there are are not enough lanes from Constellation Drive southwards. So instead of getting on with building those lanes, they’ll put it off for another 15+ years 🙁

        3. Remember this project isn’t about making it easier for Aucklanders to get around. It’s to accelerate the economy of Northland by making it faster for Hamiltonians to get there.

    1. The busway, including the part over Constellation drive has been designed to take light rail. If you mean the bridge across to the Albany Station, that will never have rail across it. If there is rail ever added then there will be a station on the East Coast road side. NZTA own enough land to make this possible.

      1. Why on earth would an LRT station be on that side? There will me a metropolitan centre on the Western side, yet you would move the RTN *away* in the future?

        1. I presume that is due to the practical difficulties of getting rail across the other side of the motorway and then back again to go further north. There will be walking bridges to get to the other side. I’m assuming that they will decommission and modify the busway bridges when they go to light rail and those will become walking/cycling bridges.

          1. Why does the rail need to go back to the East side to continue north?

            And if it does need to swap then it is completely worth building 2 bridges to get it into the metro centre.

        2. The northern busway is going up the eastern side of the motorway. Unless I have misunderstood, North from Albany it’s going to come back to the eastern side and go up to Silverdale. So then any future light-rail will be able to go straight up the eastern side of the motorway. The mall area is still quite a long way away from the existing Albany Station, so it may be a good idea to have a link of some variety through to the Mall area. But whether it is practical for such a relatively short distance I don’t know.

          1. The TFUG shows the Busway potentially going up the western side through Dairy Flat. There is no reason *at all* that it needs to be on the Eastern side so why someone would put a station 800m from the centre of Albany rather than 500m is beyond me.

          2. At the open day I was told that NZTA own the land on the eastern side so that the station can be put there for light rail so I’m guessing that the current plan is for it to be on eastern side, especially given Silverdale is also on the eastern side. But I don’t have any other confirmation of that

          3. Doesn’t really matter whether it is 500m or 800m it is not really in an ideal location either way. However having a very frequent loop bus to the mall and back would be good (currently they just have existing other routes go around past it). Could just have a few small buses doing this.

          4. But why. What possible advantage dies that offer over the west side. And Bruce 500m to 800m is the difference between Britomart and the old station. It is nothing to sneeze at and the centre week grow towards the station as the paddocks get built out.

          5. Sailor Boy, the East side would provide for straight through faster LR. There is going to be “link” type buses anyway so might as well keep it on the east side where it will make for faster journey times and be cheaper to build.
            That said there isn’t really much to stop them making it a Britomart/Manukau type terminus station.

    2. If it’s on the angle that it is represented in the image it certainly won’t, as that’s basically a 90 deg dog leg! Hopefully, they build something that’s on a bit more of an angle, even if it costs a bit more.

  4. “They’ve dropped a potential walking and cycling underpass from SH18 and seem to plan to include a connection as part of a new bridge extending Unsworth Dr”.

    Actually there is an existing underpass at the end of Rook reserve that connects the cycle paths in Unsworth Reserve with Omega Reserve and Rosedale Reserve. The engineers feel the current underpass is not up to scratch and are suggesting a bridge would serve the community better. Some residents are raising concerns that if the bridge carries automobile traffic it will shift congestion from the industrial estate to the residential streets of Unsworth Heights. As such they are still investigating the bridge as an option. But I don’t think they are planning to remove the existing underpass.

    “Previously there was a ‘potential path still under investigation’ showing along SH18 including west of Albany Highway. They’ve confirmed the walking and cycling path as far as Albany Highway but not west of there. This is a shame as the motorway has a much nicer grade than using Upper Harbour Highway”

    I think you mean it is nicer than Upper Harbour Drive. But I believe AT is looking at other options for extending the walking and cycling west.

    1. I submitted on both of those points. Building a general bridge at Unsworth will only cause rat running and is probably most opposed by the locals. The cycling link to the west really just needs to be some decent intersection and cycle lane treatments from Bush Road to Upper Harbour Drive, linking what will then be some very good facilities.

  5. Well done NZTA, this is what a new multi-modal project looks like. Exactly what all the work on the NW should also have included. Still the trend is improving, onward!

    Of course two other issues remain:

    1. NZTA are still stuck in a mode prejudiced regime, where they can do this for buses and cycling and walking, but not rail.
    2. For the city as a whole to become multi-modal we need to add the missing modes alone, without accompanying mega motorway widening and additions.

    Both of these outcomes probably require substantial overhaul of the agency and its directives.
    Undertaking such an upgrade of this institution is my advice at policy level, and politicians who support it will certainly get our encouragement.

  6. I notice that they have 3 motorway lanes in each direction over Oteha Valley Road… Currently 3 merges into 2 Northbound and there are only 2 Southbound. Not sure if this is a glitch with the graphic or if they haven’t shaded it in the yellow-green to indicate new lanes.

    1. As far as I’m aware there are no firm plans to add additional lanes after Oteha Valley Road as yet. That’s a different discussion document. I suspect it is just that way not to complicate the graphic.

    1. As mentioned above, there are no extra lanes being added southbound from constellation drive so the argument is that it will just create more congestion if you make it easy for people to do get from SH18 to SH1 south. I would have thought that as part of this project they should be widening from Constellation to Tristram. Traffic flows substantially better with three lanes. All it is doing is putting off the inevitable.

        1. Widening from 2 to 3 lanes from Constellation to Tristrim in addition to the existing plan of widening Greville to Constellation would substantially improve traffic flow within the North Shore. I use the motorway regularly but never go anywhere near as far as the bridge. Not everyone is CBD focused like the mayor wants us to be. Currently the section from Greville Road to Tristram Avenue is not good, by virtue of being two lanes. Once it’s three lanes after Tristram, traffic flows very nicely. Arguments can made either way with regard to the south facing ramps, I won’t really be affected by them the with trips that I take. If traffic is needing to go in that direction, presumably they are going to do that anyway regardless of whether there are south facing ramps, it just slows the trip a little bit. But 2 to 3 lanes in that section would make a huge difference to traffic flow

          1. Nope, the enormous majority of M’way traffic in the morning is going beyond the bridge, something like 90%. All that 3 laning to Tristam would do is to get everyone to the queue at Esmonde faster.

        2. Again I find myself agreeing with Sailor Boy, but having a south facing link would make it easier for those that from the shore to Penrose etc to be able to avoid the CMJ and make use of the Waterview connection to get to the industrial areas in the south with the bonus of avoiding the most congested part of the southern motorway.
          I would have thought that having the busway could cross to the western side of the motorway to give it better access to the Oteha bus station and also the Albany area when it eventually becomes rail (heavy or light what ever is the best option at the time). The only reason I can see for the busway to continue north on the eastern side is that it could terminate in dairy flat and flow seamlessly onto east coast road if it was decided that was a better option than continuing to Silverdale.

  7. So the bridge to Albany Station will be LRT capable? It doesn’t appear to be but then, that’s how we do things anyway, build the same thing again and again. Construction companies must love it.

    1. No, LRT Station will be on the East Coast Road side of the motorway and then presumably you will be able to use that bridge to walk over to the old Albany Station

      1. Repeating this ad nauseum doesn’t make it true.

        Thereare 1,000 reasons to have it on the west side, and you have shown no evidence that it will be on the east side.

        1. Because that is what I was told by NZTA. I was specifically told that they own the land on the eastern side for a light rail station. Feel free to email them and doublecheck. Also, the bridge across to the Albany station in the design is not capable of taking light rail, it wouldn’t be able to do a 90° turn.

          1. The fact that they have held the land does not mean that is the preferred solution, the better solution, the committed solution, or even the likely solution. They also own the entire existing station on the western side which could host an LRT station.

          2. Trams can’t turn corners? Someone better let the council and NZTA know, they have quite a 90 degree turns in the route to the airport. Does this mean heavy rail is the only option after all?

          3. My understanding, which could very well be wrong, is that they can turn but just not at 90°. Would certainly slow them down at the very least.

          4. Also depends what alignment the bridge is built at. Even though busses can do 90 degree turns, why would you build it that way? Cars can do 90 degree turns, but we don’t build motorways with them. 45 degree turns would be much more comfortable and faster.

            Compare with the crossing of Marsh Wall here

            At the moment it appears NZTA have only released schematic diagrams for the alignment, so i wouldn’t assume a 90 degree turn.

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