The NZTA made two announcements this week related to the Waterview Connection
We want to avoid a repeat of the Kapiti Expressway, which has seen commute times double so, following on from recent questions raised about the Waterview tunnels and the impact they would have on congestion, we decided to re-examine our traffic modelling. One of our traffic experts was working through that modelling from home when his 5-year old son walked past, saw the project maps and pointed out that combining seven lanes of traffic from State Highway 16, the Gt North Rd onramps and the Waterview Tunnels, just wouldn’t fit into the four lanes between Waterview and the city.
The Auckland Council and the government agree that it’s important for Auckland to grow both up and out. We decided that we should adopt that philosophy with our motorways too and after careful examination of the options we realised it wasn’t practical to widen the motorway, so the best option was to go up and build a second level for the motorway. The elevated motorway will be built between the Waterview connection and the Central Business District, where it would connect into local streets to provide access directly to the CBD via a few on and off ramps. The one we’re most excited about is the Mercury Lane ramps which will provide great access for drivers straight into the heart of Karangahape Road, which will be great for businesses in the area. A second set of ramps will connect to Alex Evans St to provide connections to the western side of the city via Symonds St.
This has also been made possible because traffic volumes have started falling in the city centre, and with Auckland Transport proposing to retain more traffic capacity than the council had previously indicated, we knew there would be the extra road capacity for us to make use of.
Our new traffic modelling indicates that the elevated motorway is now urgent and we intend to get on with building it immediately. It is expected to cost $2 billion and given the urgent nature of it, the government has agreed we can use funds originally intended for the City Rail Link to expedite the project. This will delay the City Rail Link by a few years but as no one uses trains in Auckland we don’t think this will be too much of an issue.
This is a map provided showing the on approximate locations of the on and off ramps.
When asked about whether the project would include provision for a Northwest Busway or other improvements to walking and cycling, such as an underpass at St Lukes Rd, the agency said:
Given the urgent nature of this project we haven’t had time to include any provision for public transport, walking and cycling.
In a separate but related announcement, the NZTA have advised that due to the impending congestion, they’ve decided to delay the opening of the tunnels till after the election.
“You can’t beat the smell of fresh tarmac” The NZTA’s group manager of highways Tommy Parker said, noting that it was important there was a steady stream of projects being completed to provide enough tarmac smelling opportunities. Adding “This government has been good for the road building industry and opening Waterview before that, and it causing severe congestion, presents too much of a risk to other motorway projects we have planned.”