This was originally posted in December 2014. If you have an old post that you’d like us to run again, please let us know.

The herald yesterday highlighted an idea we’ve long championed, removing the eyesore that is the Dominion Rd Interchange and developing the land freed up by it.

Dominion Rd Interchange

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.

Dominion Rd interchange space

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

Dominion Rd 1959

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.

Dominion Rd Motorway 1

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.

1963, Dominion Rd flyover in the foreground
1968, Dominion Rd flyover in the foreground

Now the motorway plans are gone but the interchange still exists. Will we tear it down and reclaim the area?

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    1. “Should we be asking NZTA to design the East West Link to allow for future demolition?”

      Yes, by asking them not to build in the first place.

      While we can remove the likes of the East West motorway structures, or the flyover as here in the future.

      Undoing the damage that those decisions and structures will have inflicted in their lifetime is near impossible.

      c.f. K’Rd environs, even if we capped the motorway collar today, the repercussions of the CMJs existence surrounding the Auckland CBD will live on for generations to come. Because decisions about what is or isn’t built nearby last for generations, so even when the original reason for those decisions on what to build or not build is removed or ameliorated [ala capping the CMJ] then those earlier buildings and decisions remain.

      A similar sad story exists for the Grafton Gully.

      Finally, as Patrick has said many times, urban form is as much about what you choose not to build, as what you choose to build.

      In essence, because you can’t “un-chopdown” a tree, you shouldn’t cut it down too hastily in the first place, especially by blithely assuming that you can always replace whatever was there anytime you like without any real loss.

      1. I agree. I was being a bit flippant with the “design for future demolition”. I also wish EW link would not be built. It looks suspiciously like a road that was supposed to be built for freight, except there wasn’t enough freight to justify it, so they massively expand it to attract every commuter trip nesrby onto it.

        We were supposed to build roads to transport people. When you have to funnel people onto your road in order to justify building the latter bigger, it is time to admit defeat.

        1. “except there wasn’t enough freight to justify it, so they massively expand it to attract every commuter trip nesrby onto it.”

          And that excuse is why Neilson St and others are the way they are today.
          They were designed to work in a similar same way to East West in their day, and in order to “make the numbers up” to justify it they allowed all those SOVs to use all of it and then let them park all over it thus reducing its utility massively as a freight route.

          Then once the truck volumes get up a bit, the roads no good anymore, as its filled with SOVs and parked cars so needs widening or a new one built, – “calling Mr East/West Motorway, you are needed on stage – now.”.

          East West is even worse than Neilson et al as its limited access by design, so its nothing but a motorway in drag. Pure and Simple. Just as NNR Flyover was/is.
          Form following function and all that.

          With NNR we were kind of saved because the Motorway is was intended for never made it off the operating table, but today we still have its tombstone, in the form of the NNR Flyover, as a reminder, standing tall, and forever laying claim to the motorways intended position.

          The problem with East West is that by putting it where they want to, we forgo the opportunity to (practically forever) develop Aucklands “second” and long neglected Waterfront and likely for eons, for anything but more traffic.

          And right on the cusp of when the whole transport system is about to have its largest shake up 150 years in the next 10. Meaning that many of the issues these structures intend to solve will be solved by completely different methods and ways of doing things, so will not be required as they are currently envisaged.

          The fact that we are even going there again with East West, given we have the NNR Monument to “traffic flow above all” to remind us the poor outcomes that approach enables, thats the criminal act.

  1. Are we going to reclaim the area and dead end New North Road and Dominion Roads and turn it into parks and playgrounds? I assume the answer is no, we can’t do that. So what then, conflicting, traffic light controlled intersections that carry the massive volume of traffic in the 21st century, using Auckland’s failed traffic light logic? And even if the lights were a rarity and worked properly the traffic hold ups owing to conflicting intersections will be horrendous as both roads carry a huge amount of traffic.

    Looks are very subjective and to me its a 1960’s reminder and doesn’t worry me. Clearly aesthetics worry some and yet we really have far more important things to worry about.

    But the kicker is the Dominion Rd New North Road interchange works, something that is almost unheard of in Auckland and it works well. No conflicting intersections, not a traffic light for miles and the ability of pedestrians from surrounding streets or cyclists to avoid crossing busy roads through the tunnels and because of the lack of intersections a lack of crashes and potential risk from crashes.

    We have far far better ways of spending money than fixing something that is not broken like the Dominion Road fly over and ultimately replacing it with something that will never work anywhere near as well and it will still be an ugly road all the same, just different.

    1. That’s the problem though Waspman, it doesn’t really work mate. Going from Dominion Road shopping area to Kingsland’s NNR or vice versa is impossible via this overbuilt flyover. You have to dog leg through a few backstreets. By making it a normal intersection like every other one on Dom Rd and NNR, you actually allow for everyone to go directly where they want.

      So, it is broken already. But it will be even more broken when we need to either close or grade separate those two doglegs to allow the western line/CRL to function efficiently.

      And fixing it may well end up cost neutral for AT by saving money not having to grade separate those doglegs and selling off the excess land in the the corners of the intersection.

    2. Waspman
      What “huge amount of traffic”?? If you look up the figures you will find Dominion Road only carries around 20,000 vehicles per day, and New North Road not much more. That is typical for an urban two lane road anywhere in New Zealand. By contrast a two lane freeway is normally designed for 30,000 vehicles per day or more. The reason why there always seems to be lots of traffic on New North Road is not because the volume is high, but because the speed is low. Downstram capacity constraints (the CBD approaches) limit the volume on both roads.

      That is why this interchange “works well” from a road traffic ONLY viewpoint. (It works terribly from a pedestrian, cyclist, public transport and amenity viewpoint.). Without very much traffic using it, this interchange can’t fail. But it was massively overdesigned. The approach roads on each side are only capable of delivering to this location about half the volume of traffic the interchange was designed for. Once the freeway the Dominion Road interchange was designed to connect to was abandoned, it became redundant. It will make virtually no difference to network congestion if it is torn down.

      1. It works fine pedestrian wise as I use it frequently and as an intersection it will fail miserably.

        And as for accessing Kingsland, its in the wrong place for starters, and I guess it makes accessing Sandringham and Grey Lynn as pointless but then again that’s the other way too.

        And what is so bad if it works for motor vehicles, they are our predominant mode of transportation.

        1. It is a bugger for pedestrians. Crossing New North near Mostyn St is very difficult, particularly in peak traffic. We walk down from the Mt Eden station and take our lives in our hands getting to the north side of New North. There are no ped crossings for miles. One evening we could not even get across the road to get the bus on the southern side. We got the bus into Symonds St, crossed at the lights, and then got the bus to the west.

        2. Walking through the interchange at night feels pretty sketchy. Not many people about and lots of long tunnels and featureless stretches to negotiate. Not a friendly environment for pedestrians at all.

    3. Waspman, I am trying to find the good points in what you have written, as I disagree with your main points. The area is a disgrace aesthetically and in terms of safety for non-motorised users. We don’t have to “carry the massive volume of traffic in the 21st century”; we have to provide accessibility for people to our city in a way that leaves a responsible legacy for future generations. And walking is the most important mode of transport. It is part of every journey, and it contributes to good health and social connection, whereas driving simply contributes to climate change, air pollution, social isolation and obesity.

      The good point in your comments is your focus on playgrounds and parks, and I agree with you. Parks and playgrounds don’t have to be big – they have to be frequently located so that everyone can get to one in just a couple of minutes. This area could include at least 3 small parks and the roads could be lined with green bioswale strips to beautify the area, clean the air and filter the stormwater before allowing it to enter the ground, thus lowering the load on the stormwater pipes.

  2. So what’s stopping this from happening? Surely it can’t be funding as selling the land would have to pay for it?

  3. I’m looking forward to this happening. I’ve lived around here and regularly make the walk into town from Dominion road through Ian MacKinnon Drive and it could house a lot more people/activity and just generally be a more interesting place but If we are handing over Council owned land can we make sure theres affordable housing that goes in here. I think just handing this prime site over to a developer to make windfall profit would be a massive waste.

    1. My grandparents had two properties taken off them for this flyover, about 1960/61. I guess the
      MOW or Council was the culprit. They did not get market value for the properties but what the
      acquirers felt that they were worth.

      I wonder if the family could claim them back, at an appropriate much reduced price, as compensation ?

      Yeah right !

      1. Probably not, as they were paid something. Interesting point of law though – if property is taken at below market price for something shown later to have negative public worth, should there be compensation? Maybe it would depend on whether the below market price was overt?

  4. What are the implications for light rail down Dominion Road? Would it work better with or without the interchange? I can see the benefit of grade separation for light rail but the flyovery bit would make things difficult.

    1. It would not make much difference. These days they usually run light rail down a road at surface level and give it priority over traffic at any lights to get a “green wave” effect. The French and Germans have been doing it in their systems for 20 years. So the interchange is all about capacity to get continuous streams of cars through.

      You can see an example of traffic signal priority for light rail in this video of the Gold Coast system.

  5. It isn’t exactly sightly, but it works. There are “dog leg” intersections in several other places:Ayr/Domain/Parnell roads is one example.

    I like what is being done now with recent motorway projects: sculptures, greenery, sleek-looking flyovers (Newmarket viaduct, Waterview etc.) and am fully in support of an east-west link to take multi-tonne rigs off surface roads and onto a 4 lane arterial, or better, a motorway that ties in with the South West motorway at Onehunga.

  6. “and am fully in support of an east-west link to take multi-tonne rigs off surface roads”

    Perhaps someone could set up a Go Fund Me page so that you could make a contribution to the cost of it. I understand that it’s rather pricey so you may want to get the other person that supports it to go halves with you.

  7. Is it worth pointing out how a Flyover can be done so well that it fits in with the environment and actively adds to the streetscape? Holborn Viaduct anyone?
    and from above:

    It’s great as a traffic crossing point as there is no change of direction for vehicles, but there are 4 staircases for pedestrians to go from upper to lower. And it is beautiful.

  8. I think it’s important to keep projects like this in the public mindset and up for debate. It might be an unfortunate side effect of big projects like the CRL whereby other projects fall by the wayside as focus shifts away.

    Even if this project has negligible results on traffic and ends up being cost neutral it could still open up land for other uses.

    Developments here may also add to the business case for light rail down dominion road.

    1. I reckon, good on Easte, Fletcher and Casey.

      The business case for it will be interesting now that it’s 3 years down the track. Price per m2 is even higher, and we have plenty of statistics from all the examples overseas where roading capacity has been reduced. The story I’m hearing from Europe, US and Asia is that local businesses benefit from reducing car dominance and improving pedestrian amenity.

  9. I dispute the claim the current interchange works well for traffic. At peak times (especially PM peak) it’s a bottleneck for New North Rd traffic and because it’s only a single lane each way the bus lane ends causing huge delays.

    A normal intersection will surely have a general lane and a bus lane, resulting in better performance, especially for those on PT.

  10. I am thrilled that we have enough money spare to undertake this essential project, ahead of other priorities and initiatives.

    And yes, I did read the bit about how it would almost pay for itself due to the land areas recovered – which made me chuckle. Because the way things really work is that once the public get onboard with the idea a second idea is then promoted: “hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we kept the land for park space?” And everyone says “Squeee!” and forgets the project is no longer paying for itself.

    Or the other thing that happens is that the council does indeed sell off the land to developers to recoup costs but the sale is a deal like that made for QEII Square. The big purchase price gets a big headline but the council is quiet on the side deals done that effectively reimburses the development company.

    But lest anyone say I put the ‘Nick’ in ‘Cynical’ let me offer a suggestion that is so crazy it might work:

    Is there an opportunity to wall both ends of the New North Road underpass and create a live music venue within? Possibly a new (and larger?) Kings Arms in that space? Our own version of the Tunnel or Cavern clubs? I assume you’d dump a lot of dirt at each end to bring the level up to match Dominion Road but that’s not a bad thing, it’s soundproofing.

    I know building companies always say it’s cheaper to demolish an old house and build a bigger/better one from scratch, but surely on a project this big/expensive it would be more cost effective to just ramp up New North Road to meet the Dom Road overpass and fill in the parts below? Depending on the final position of the actual intersection maybe we could keep the Dom Rd > New North flyover ramp where it is but convert it to a cycle and walkway so they can cross the intersection unimpeded? (I’m not sure of the clearance height of the flyover lane, granted, but it must be high enough for buses and trucks at present right?) We’d have to come up with a colour other than magenta to paint it, of course…

  11. What will happen to the businesses that adjoin the flyover if its torn down? The CRL is planning to close of Porters Ave. Will traffic entering or leaving Porters Ave off New North Rd or Dominion Rd be any better served?

  12. It’s a terrible intersection for pedestrians. I hated having to chose between the scary underpass (ideal for ambush) or dodging fast cars. 30 years ago, as a young female pedestrian I was accosted here by a man while I was walking home from university in the evening. He picked his spot so that he could lurk among the columns and wait for individual pedestrians. Fortunately for me he was just a flasher, so no harm done.

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