This is part 2 of our series wrapping up the key news and events of the year. You can see

In this part, I’m going to look at roads.

Waterview/Western Ring Route

The country’s biggest roading project saw substantial sections completed this year


After some months of delays, the Waterview tunnels were finally opened. The tunnels were officially opened in mid-June with public open days and then opened to traffic a few weeks later.

Waterview has definitely made a big difference to some journeys but it’s a shame that more hasn’t been done to capitalise on the change in traffic volumes on local roads, such as re-purposing space for walking, cycling and PT.

There has also been silly complaints about how there are permanent speed cameras in the tunnels. In my view, there are so many signs advising of the speed limit, if someone chooses to pay a voluntary tax by ignoring them then that’s no-one’s fault but their own.

Lincoln to Westgate

The widening of the motorway between Lincoln Rd and Westgate kicked into full gear this year. What’s most annoying about this project is that much of the work is going to have to be dug up again in a few years to built a Northwestern Busway or light rail,.

Northern Corridor Improvements

The Northern Corridor project should be the last of the Western Ring Route and spent most of the year going through the consenting process via a Board of Inquiry. Unlike other projects, this had very little opposition, which is in part due to the fact it was truly a multi-modal project given it included an extension of the Northern Busway and added numerous walking and cycling routes.

East-West Link

Along with the Northern Corridor, the East-West Link progressed through the consent process this year. We even had a surprising ally in the opposition to the project in the form of one of the key infrastructure lobby groups, who described it as more expensive than a corruption ridden project in Russia. I do wonder if they regret their submission given how often it’s now quoted.

The project was ultimately approved by the Board of Inquiry, but not before the incoming government announced they would be reviewing the project to look for a cheaper alternative. This is likely to be an important project to watch in 2018

Lincoln Rd

Another project to gain approval this year was the proposed upgrade of Lincoln Rd. We’d like to see some more thought put into the design to give a better outcome than the pseudo motorway that’s currently planned,

Other RoNS

Progress was made on the other Roads of National Significance over the year. One of the more interesting stories relates to Transmission Gully where it was found that the earthworks required were underestimated by up to 50%.

RoNS 2

There has always been the spectre of a second round of RoNS projects and that came very close to becoming a reality after the former National Government proposed another tranche of projects as part of their election policy. The main problem is they showed the diminishing returns from large scale road investment as many of the roads selected have such low usage that they would be hard to justify.

With a new government we’ll hopefully see the end of many of those projects in their current form.

Road Safety

Road safety has been a hot topic this year we experience our highest number of road deaths in many years. In the last 12 months (to Dec-27) there have been over 380 death on our roads. That compares to the low point of 253 in 2013.

We’ve long called for a Vision Zero approach to safety and with a new government, it looks like we might finally move towards that. They have already made steps to reduce the carnage of the road with a series of quick wins being implemented over summer. We look forward to seeing more of this in 2018.

Anything major that I’ve missed?

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  1. When waterview opened the queues on Triangle Rd disappeared. Now in December they are back to where they were before waterview. So the benefit of reduced travel times lasted 6 months. We really need to get smarter about how we send such large amounts of money.

  2. I’m always surprised by the claims of faster travel times to and from the airport thanks to Waterview. The traffic between the Onehunga Harbour Rd and Coronation Rd northbound onramps is jammed pretty much everyday, I think due to both having the two-lanes-merge-into-one road markings.

    North and southbound have both been VERY adversely affected by the roading projects closer to the airport, especially the Kirkbride underpass. I drive it everyday and get off at Neilsen and my average trip hope is at least 15 minutes longer thanks to that.

    So really any time saved by Waterview is lost once you get closer to the airport.

    1. Not just there. From the people I know who come to lessons in Pt Chevalier, I hear that you need to pick your time to use the motorway between Greenlane and Pt Chevalier even more carefully now, as the traffic has increased on it so much.

    2. In general I have found the tunnels excellent and have taken traffic off local roads which should be the no 1 purpose. Time saving is a bonus and I would say 80% time it is much quicker. 15% would be same as before and 5% slower. The real problem has been the flow on effects and some poor decisions around the project.
      1. Having 3 lanes go to 2 lanes at Hillsborough rd for all of 200m creates an unnecessary jam each morning. Make it 3 all the way.
      2. SH16 to SH1 northbound now backed up due to onramp lights to VPT. Simple solution is close Wellington St onramp at peak times and make vpt left lane from SH16.
      3. There should have been 3 lanes in the short bit on SH20A to Kirkbride to allow airport traffic through and Kirkbride to exit.
      4. The Verissimo intersection is now a huge bottleneck. Anyone could have seen that coming. Solution would be to have Northbound traffic free flow somehow. Not much point making Airport bound freeflow as jjust moves to next roundabout.

      Finally, not having tunnel entry/exit at Gt North Rd end has meant limited use for west. At least West bound Gt Nth Rd exit should have been after tunnel. Would have meant left hand onramp at St lukes to tunnel and not merge into busy traffic just to exit into empty tunnel.

      1. “1. Having 3 lanes go to 2 lanes at Hillsborough rd for all of 200m creates an unnecessary jam each morning. Make it 3 all the way.”

        I’d guess that removing the lane at Hillsborough actually improves flow. Keeping that lane would just put an even bigger bottleneck at the on-ramp merge.

      2. This is the problem though we always have to add some extra roads to make the existing ones work. It is a never ending chasing of the tail. We have been doing this for the last 50 years maybe it is time to try something else.

        1. Yes Wayne, it is the time to do something else. And what is there to ease congestion over the next few years? The CRL due for completion in five years time? The first tram in four years? The new northern bus network whenever? It appears that Auckland will just stumble on as it always has. Two much will be spent on roads because just one more tunnel, road or extra lane will be seen as the answer. And then there will be gems like the Esmonde Road flyover to achieve precisely what who knows?
          At the moment Auckland is lacking a person brave and visionary enough to make a difference.

        2. Taka-ite is right; the increases we are seeing in PT patronage are nice, but what are the equivalent ‘vehicle kilometres travelled’ figures? Since we’ve increased our road capacity incrementally and substantially over decades, we’ll be seeing a legacy background increase in vkt for a long time to come.

          Our need is to curb emissions and energy use, improve health, increase safety and accessibility, reduce the social toll of long travel times, and make a greener city. We’re not going to achieve these things unless we tackle the real problem of vkt, and take drastic measure to shift from car travel to PT and active modes.

          Let’s applaud moves in the right direction with PT and cycling numbers – but they are only half the story. The other half is vkt, which needs to be substantially reduced. Luckily vkt depends on road capacity far more than on population – so we know what we need to do.

  3. Not quite a 2017 story, but the Herald ran a recent piece about progress on the Puhoi to Warkworth “Holiday Highway” – 1 year on.

    You can read that here if you have not already done so.

    The main real issue I have with this road (other than that its a PPP for no particular reason other than the last Government wanted it off its books, and for which we’re committed to paying for it for 25 years at least).

    Is that this is 4 years+ away from finishing, meanwhile that unsafe Dome Valley area of SH1 which has been crying out for safety improvements for donkey years a decade or more, continues to languish safety wise. As NZTA have spent up large on plans, re-plans and even more plans for the “Holiday highway”

    How many more deaths and injuries will be added to the road toll – thanks to accidents along that road prior to the Holiday Highway opening. That could have been reduced in number and severity – if not avoided altogether, with some of the money being spent on the HH being instead put towards simple safety upgrades on SH1 and elsewhere on the network?

    And when you consider how much of a reduction in the road toll we could achieve if we spent as much money on safety improvements on existing known black spots instead gold plating the select few, and politically anointed roads, like this one. You really have to wonder who has been really in charge for the last 9 years.

    Julie Ann Genter (as associate Minister of Transport) is quite rightly calling for a re-prioritisation in road spending to ensure the hundreds of “local” safety improvements throughout NZ can get the funding look in they’ve been denied for so long.

    Hopefully the road toll in 2017 – whatever it ends up being, won’t be topped by an even higher one in 2018,19 or any time soon – thanks to getting these road spending priorities right and more focus on Vision Zero.

    1. Also the holiday Highway has been designed about as squiggly as possible adding both cost, distance and time to the road while reducing the benefits of it. Of course the less straight the road the more money the contractors can make from it and the more ongoing maintenance is needed (corners get shredded faster than straights by trucks).
      Yes the terrain isn’t easy but adding additional unnecessary length to the design is nuts let alone the amount of land (and forests than need to be cleared for it!).

        1. Cuttings aren’t so bad and they’re not massive hills. No need for tunnels. The odd viaduct perhaps (probably not any extra than they’ve added to the extra length of the squiggly road as usually crossing the same streams etc).

    2. Would be nice, for starters, if people would stop calling it the “Holiday Highway”. It’s not just Aucklanders heading north to their baches who’ll use it: some of us actually live / work in Northland, and absent the possibility of passenger rail, we have a dangerous / geographically-challenged road for now to get in and out of the region. Agree that upgrading the Dome first should’ve been done first though; that and Brynderwyn south.

  4. One of the problem is that the tunnels and motorway sections around it are have a original design speed of 100kph+ (wide lanes, straight road, fantasic forward visibility) compared to other sections of motorways with less than 100kph design speeds (new market section SH1, Harbour Bridge section, where it’s windy and have narrower lanes).

    But when you start to slap 80kph signs everywhere, people have to consciously slow down and consciously check their speedometer constantly. And the speed limit extends for 5ks beyond the actual tunnels before getting to CBD.

    I think there are places where speed limits needs adjusting to improve safety but this is not it.

    1. ” people have to consciously slow down and consciously check their speedometer constantly.”
      Oh! The sheer horror of having to not only slow down(!) but check one’s speedometer. The poor babies; how I feel for them.

      1. “One of the problem is that the tunnels and motorway sections around it are have a original design speed of 100kph+ (wide lanes, straight road, fantasic forward visibility)”

        This is not true of the tunnels, but the Waterview to CMJ section is a really bad case of this. HarryMC can try to mock motorists, but that is really bad road design. If you want to set a speed limit at 80 to deal with merging and weaving, then you need to design the road so that 80 feels like the approporiate speed. This is a safe system approach, where we recognise that road design contributes to motorist error.

        1. Correction. The tunnel is designed for 100km+. It is a NZTA decision to limit to 80 due to people not used to tunnels in NZ. Like most people I don’t have an issue with 80 in tunnel but do with the MWs before and after. The fixed speed camera at portals are ok as reminds people to slow. Not so sure about the averaging cameras in tunnel (which despite what has been reported are not legal yet – just used for extreme speeds) as just make people do 70.

        2. Is that correct, Stu? The measured lane width corresponds to NZ’s design lane width for 80 km/hr. I would like to know which one they did design it for.

        3. I can check when back at work but I am reasonably sure as I recall the 80km limit came in well after the bore size and design was done. Of course the design rules have possibly changed over time as well.

        4. There are no averaging cameras and the lanes are 3.2 kmh with narrow shoulders-80kmh design speed

        5. Maybe it’s simply that the tunnel is only three lanes wide with no shoulders, it’s actually built in a way that is aligned to the intended speed. The bits either side are four or five lanes with shoulders etc, wide as hell that tells you to put the pedal down.

    2. It seems like fraud to justify the Waterview link using a Benefit Cost analysis that assumed a 100km/h road when it is free flowing and then after building it to slap an 80km/h limit on not only the new part but also the existing adjacent parts of NW motorway.

    3. It’s interesting that people think that all urban motorways in NZ should be 100km/h, when that isn’t necessarily the case in other countries. Tight geometries and lane widths are one reason to lower speeds, but basic traffic theory also shows how congested traffic is less likely to tip over into stop-start gridlock if maximum speeds are constrained (we’ve had dynamic speed limits on Ngauranga Gorge Wgtn for years)..

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