As the delays to opening the Waterview Connection drag on, more and more people are beginning to question the project. There are quite a few rumours floating about as to the cause of the delays, some of which we’ve heard from people working on the project. The NZTA deny all of these, instead saying the issue lies with some sprinkler valves and jet fans. I’m happy to accept their word on that unless anyone has evidence to the contrary. They also say these issues are now fixed.
Personally, I’m more interested in when the project will open and what impact it will have on transport.
Last week the NZTA went on the AM show to discuss the project and it was those two questions.
The comments from them on congestion were particularly interesting.
If you’re expecting the long-awaited new Waterview Connection to ease Auckland’s rush-hour traffic, prepare to be disappointed.
NZTA Auckland highway manager Brett Gliddon told The AM Show on Friday the $1.4 billion tunnel will twice a day likely suffer the same gridlock as the rest of the city.
“We’ve never said it would fix peak congestion in the city,” said Mr Gliddon. “There’s still going to be a morning peak and an afternoon peak, and the tunnel will be a part of that.”
Since initial forecasting was done about a decade ago, more than 100,000 people have moved into the city.
“Traffic volumes are probably higher at opening than what we originally thought,” said Mr Gliddon.
Outside of peak hours is when the tunnel will truly shine, he says.
“Off-peak and any other time of the day, it’s going to make a huge difference. All that traffic that currently runs through all those local suburbs is now going to be able to use this link.”
I think one of the problems the NZTA have is the expectation of the project by many in the general public, and especially backed up by the government who frequently trumpet that they’re investing in Auckland to get the city moving. The narrative, whether the NZTA have said it or not, has been that Waterview is going to improve congestion. Until recently the NZTA seemed quite happy to let that become embedded so it seems like now they’re starting to hose those expectations down.
Most commonly when the NZTA have talked about congestion, it’s been related to the project’s impact on local streets. Given there doesn’t appear to be anything planned to capitalise on any shift in travel, it will be interesting to see how long – if at all – that impact lasts. Below is one of the times they have claimed it will relieve congestion, and not just on local roads.
The comments above also got me thinking about what was predicted back when the project was consented. The traffic modelling report made a few noteworthy comments. These include:
One of the objectives of the WRR is to relieve congestion that currently occurs on SH1 and to provide an alternative route north across the Auckland Isthmus. The provision of the Waterview Connection is expected to result in traffic diverting from SH1 and CMJ to the WRR.
The construction of the Waterview Connection reduces travel times and congestion across much of the network, which is expected to induce some additional travel onto the road network.
At the Great North Road Interchange, both the eastbound on ramps to SH16 from SH20 and Great North Road are generally observed to operate satisfactorily
SH20 is observed to operate satisfactorily throughout the AM peak period around the Great North Road Interchange and through the tunnel, as indicated by the travel times along the route presented above.
That’s a lot of saying everything will be fine, and there’s more where that came from.
The report also gives some estimates of Waterview’s impact in numerical terms. Here are the changes expected on local roads at different times of the day. The AM Peak is 7-9 am and the PM peak s 4-6 pm – I hope AT have their bus lane paint ready:
And this is how many are expected to use Waterview at peak times:
One useful thing from the interview was this quote. Perhaps someone needs to turn up to the opening with a giant “Mission Accomplished” banner:
“It’s going to make a huge difference. It finally completes the motorway network,” said Mr Gliddon.
And finally, when will the project actually open? All NZTA continue to say is that it will be sometime in the next few months – although I’ve heard a suggestion we may even find out today. I think there’s a good chance they’ll hold off till mid-July, timed with school holidays to try and avoid really severe congestion. But when do you think, place your bets in the comments below.