Cash-hungry Auckland Council leaders are eyeing a proposal to replace the complex Dominion Rd interchange with traffic lights to free valuable land for housing and commercial development.
Mayor Len Brown has indicated interest in what Auckland Transport makes of the proposal, which Albert-Eden Local Board member Graeme Easte says offers better connections between neighbourhoods of Kingsland and Eden Terrace severed when the three-level interchange opened in 1968.
Ward councillors Cathy Casey and Christine Fletcher are applauding his idea, as is council urban design champion Ludo Campbell-Reid, who calls the interchange “one of those eyesores designed when traffic engineers only saw their customer as a car”.
Mr Easte, who has persuaded his board to promote the proposal, expects dismantling the interchange and its four traffic ramps – including the sweeping 277m one-way flyover to New North Rd – to more than pay for itself.
Not only could at least $20 million be raised from selling 2ha of council land for mixed residential and commercial development, but that much again could be saved by not having to build a large road bridge over the southern end of the $2.4 billion City Rail Link in nearby Porters Ave.
That is because motorists travelling between Kingsland and Eden Terrace would no longer have to go via Porters Ave or Charles St, over rail crossings which could be closed.
Mr Easte believes the extra movements allowed through a conventional intersection would compensate motorists for having to wait at traffic lights.
The idea is quite simple, the interchange – which was originally intended to be part of a motorway that paralleled Dominion Rd – would be removed and returned to a normal intersection just like hundreds of others around the city. That would do a few key things
- It would open up a huge amount of land for development and combined with the work nearby that will happen with the City Rail Link highlights a huge urban regeneration opportunity.
- Despite its size, the current interchange doesn’t cater for some key movements, in particular if you are heading North or South you can’t go left on to New North Rd and you are instead required to use a maze of side streets.
- The rail level crossings on both George St and Potters Ave are needed to cater for movements that aren’t possible through the interchange. It would therefore give Auckland Transport a cheaper way to deal with these level crossings.
- It would allow bus lanes to be extended on New North Rd through the interchange
- It would create a much more friendly human scale environment
But just how much space could it free up? The Herald article suggests 2 hectares however looking it, there’s potentially around 3 hectares (30,000m²) of space across the four corners of the interchange – although some would be needed for connections to local roads. Based on the most recent valuations property prices in the immediate vicinity average roughly $1,750 per m² so that suggests potentially $52 million of land that’s tied up in the interchange not including the roads themselves.
I also must say it’s great to see the idea getting political support with local councillors and local board members supporting it. It also had positive support from people who submitted on the Newton Area Plan when it was consulted on earlier this year. This is perhaps be a perfect example of a project an Urban Development Agency could tackle.
Below is a quick history of the area and interchange:
Until the mid-late 1960’s the intersection of Dominion Rd and New North Rd ended in T intersection surrounded by commercial and residential developments. Traffic from Dominion Rd – and originally the trams – would get to the city via Symonds St
The 1955 Master Transport Plan by consultants De Leuw Cather called for a motorway that paralleled closely to Dominion Rd, something that if built would have been horrendously damaging to the area. The map on the left was from the 1960’s version of the plan while the one of the right is from the 1955 plan showing how it was meant to connect to the rest of the motorway network.
In the mid-1960s work started on the interchange with New North Rd. The interchange itself was finished by 1968 although it took a few more years before Ian McKinnon Dr was complete. This image was also before SH16 was rammed through the area.
Now the motorway plans are gone but the interchange still exists. Will we tear it down and reclaim the area?