Greetings again from Greater Tauranga. This is our second post. You can read our first post here which gives an overview of the complex transport system in our region.
This post is about the Bayfair to Baypark (B2B) project, the story of what happens when a road of national significance (RoNS) meets the edge of a growing city.
While local National party members are attempting a last ditch effort to keep the road building dream alive, we are witnessing the effects of one of their flagship projects.
The Tauranga Eastern link (TEL), poster child for the RoNS, sails toward our city in a blaze of lights, smooth tarmac and state of the art safety features. The road stretches from Paengaroa to Papamoa and is a ‘dream to drive’.
The road has encouraged commuting and urban sprawl along this corridor at such a rapid rate that traffic on Maunganui and Hewletts Rd has increased markedly in the last two years. To a point where now it all screeches to a halt where the TEL ends at Baypark Stadium and the daily crawl begins.
NZTA is now focussed on completing the motorway’s free-wheeling romp towards the city and port, with $120 million being poured into the next 2km of road.
In essence, the B2B project involves extending the TEL further towards the Mount, and removing two ‘constriction’ points (roundabouts) and replacing them with flyovers. One is at Baypark Stadium (Te Maunga), the other is at Bayfair roundabout. The project then merges back into SH2 just prior to the Hewletts Rd flyover. More information here.
The big elephant in the room, however, is that it all ends on Hewletts Road, already stretched beyond capacity, that would need a flyover of Tokyo proportions to allow freeflow traffic, given our current rate of car dependency. A recent article stated that:
“Predictions made in 2006 that Hewletts Rd would be congested within 15 to 20 years of the completion of the $225 million Harbour Link project have come true almost twice as fast as expected”.
Refer full article here.
Ironically (although I’m sure most of you are over road-inspired irony) the business case for the B2B does not include what happens outside the boundary of the project. And so, the B2B was justified on a three minute travel saving time on the new stretch of road only, which stacked up tidily at a cost benefit ratio of 2.8 and justified the project.
It has, however, been stressed by NZTA that one of the main objectives for the project is to get trucks to Port of Tauranga efficiently, although this argument was actually disputed by NZTA’s own peer review (Appendix to the Business Case document) and no freight benefits have been allowed for in the benefit assessment.
Trucks will inevitably end up jammed on Hewletts Road along with everyone else.
Here they will belch diesel for the foreseeable future, ensuring our continued skyhigh carbon emissions, while we take bets on what will come first: A rethink of our national port strategy? electrification of our fleet? Or god forbid the Government capitulates to the National Party petition and sets aside a billion dollars to box on with an overpass down Hewletts Road… then of course we’ll need to somehow connect to the four lane Road of National Significance coming in from Katikati in the other direction.
A legacy project.
All agree that it is necessary to do something to relieve the congestion in this stretch of road, but off the record, NZTA admits that if the project was designed today it would look a lot different. It is what they call a “legacy project” (polite terminology for an outdated idea that we unfortunately committed to in the past, and are now stuck with).
In our view this project lacks vision and a commitment to multi modal solutions for transport. Below we have summarised what we believe to be the major problems in the design:
- The walking and cycling design for B2B has improved as a result of cycle advocacy group opposition in 2016. However, the busy existing ped/cycle underpass at Bayfair is being removed, and there is no commitment to construct a safe overpass or replace the underpass linking Bayfair to Owens Place. Instead, pedestrians and cyclists will need to cross nine lanes on foot through multiple sets of lights – almost all of the services for the Baypark/Matapihi communities are across this motorway, including local schools, medical services and supermarkets.
This next image is of proposed intersection layout, showing the pedestrian/cycle pathways from Bayfair and Girven Rd across to Owens Place. If you were wanting to cross from the left hand bottom of the intersection you would need to stop at 4 sets of cross signals/lights.
This last image shows an impression of what NZTA would like to have us think the crossing may look like. Yes folks, what you see here is people enjoying the serenity in the middle of the roundabout, and under the motorway! And don’t you love the irony of the urban design text!
- There is no bus lane proposed as part of the B2B project – so there will be no way for rapid public transport to access the existing bus lanes on Hewletts Rd. NZTA is apparently considering a separate project to add bus lanes in the future, rather than building them at the same time. Given there are 15,000 new homes planned at Te Tumu, we think this is a major oversight (reminiscent of SH16 in Auckland).
- The “Western BOP Public Transport Blueprint” proposes express buses to Bayfair from both Papamoa and Te Puke. This would be an ideal time to create a future-proofed interchange alongside the B2B at Bayfair, so the express buses can easily stop at Bayfair / Owens Place and then continue along a bus lane to Hewletts Rd and into Tauranga CBD.
- Instead of this, Tauranga City Council is proposing a new Bus Interchange behind Bayfair on Farm St. This interchange will need to manage approx. 20 local buses per hour plus regional and intercity buses. Farm St is a narrow residential street, designated a ‘local road’ under Tauranga City Council hierarchy and therefore not suitable for location of a bus interchange. This location does not lend itself to quick and efficient bus movements to enable reliable services.
- BOPRC is currently in agreement with the Farm St location for the bus interchange and is proposing the main bus route north along Farm St and Links Ave. These are residential streets that are completely gridlocked during peak times because of school and commuter traffic. We understand that the reason BOPRC does not favour an interchange beside the B2B is because it will be too difficult to access following construction of the B2B (across the highway – because NZTA is removing the pedestrian underpass). You can begin to see the ludicrous picture emerging!
In summary, we think there needs to be an urgent review of B2B by the government, in conjunction with the local projects – as they can only operate effectively if they are considered TOGETHER. These projects will shape our community for years to come – and we need to get them right. We need a solution that meets the future needs of Tauranga, provides for non-car based modes, and does not worsen the existing situation either in terms of congestion or safety of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.
We point out that the project itself has not begun its construction, although enabling works have begun. We understand there are design issues which are still being worked through. So there is still time to fix things!
What do you think? What should we be getting for our $120M?