With the change in Government, we are likely to see PT/Walking/Cycling prioritised over the many roading projects National wanted. However, it is likely and in some circumstances necessary for Government to make some investments to take place in our strategic roading network during the first decade 2018 – 2028.
I think it would be best to start by saying first I am not anti-roads I just believe:
- Investing in cycling/walking/buses is investing in roads as they increase corridor productivity;
- That induced demand in growing urban centres is empirically true, thus roading projects need to be judged beyond fictional travel time savings that never eventuate beyond the medium term, even though this makes up most of the benefits in business cases;
- Specific roading projects like bypasses allow us to prioritise road space on other streets for placemaking, active modes etc. this is something we have been traditionally poor at;
- That we have a relatively mature strategic roading network, it makes sense that the investment scales tilt back slightly towards our PT/Active modes networks to clear the large infrastructure deficit we have due to the historical underinvestment;
- That until we understand how pricing will drive mode share, trip and travel time shift investing in roading capacity improvements we may not even need would be foolish;
- Safety upgrades are a very important roading investment that needs to be made, not just because it saves lives and prevents injuries, but provides resilience;
- Lastly that many roading projects proposed are heavily gold plated when for a fraction of the cost we could deliver much of the capacity and safety benefits. The opportunity cost of gold plated projects are not great for the roading network either where because all the funding is directed at a few areas much of network misses out on essential upgrades especially around safety;
So what strategic roading projects are likely to be built:
East West Link
It is likely that East West Link will be built however, it will be a scaled-back version delivering much of the benefits at a fraction of both the environmental and financial costs. I would suspect it would be similar to Option B.
We have already seen significant improvement that has solved much of the problem in the area with the cheap $15 million preliminary works which included
- Widening SH20 from 3 to 4 lanes in each direction between Neilson Street and Queenstown Road;
- Lowering the rail bridge and replacing with a new, lowered road at Neilson;
- Creating four lanes between Alfred Street and Angle Street;
- Dedicated bus lanes on SH20 between Rimu Road and Walmsley Road;
I suspect the new programme will be more of this really cheap upgrades such as
- Further upgrading Neilson, most of Neilson is really wide but only line-marked for one lane each way. I mean residential suburban arterials have a higher capacity layout than this even though its one of our major arterial serving one of biggest industrial areas in the country, it’s so odd;
- Upgrades of Church Street;
- Fixing the SH20 interchange which alongside the problems near the overbridge seemed to be the cause nearly all the problem in the area;
- An interchange at the SH1 end.
All in all, we are likely going to be able to fix most of the problems in the East-West corridor with a package of hopefully less than $600 million rather than spending $1.25 – $1.8 billion. It also means not harming Panukau’s urban transformation plans for Onehunga as well as not causing environmental/social damage severing Onehunga from the harbour.
Southern Corridor Improvements 2.0
At current the NZTA is widening the Southern Motorway from Manukau to Papakura which does involve fixing the dangerous Takinini interchange. With massive greenfield growth slated for south of Papakura as well as the heavy industrial planned in Drury and the overbridge likely to be raised as part of the likely electrification of the line to Pukekohe, I think it is highly likely the Southern Motorway will be widened from Papakura to Drury, this alongside an upgraded motorway interchange which will cost around $300 million.
SH20A – SH20 Southbound Ramp
At current the SH20/SH20A interchange is missing a leg meaning that you cannot access SH20 Southbound coming from the Airport. What this means is people are using Massey Road instead. Adding the missing leg will free up Massey Road for Cycling/PT improvements and the project is estimated to cost between $100 – $150 million.
But if we do build this we do have to make sure we do upgrade Massey Road for cycling and PT, not leave it as a rat run with no improvements.
Northern Corridor Improvements
The Northern Corridor improvements will go ahead as planned for around $700 million. It isn’t a bad project overall pretty multi-modal and was recently approved by a Board of Inquiry.
- Complete with Western Ring upgrading the last section of SH18 to motorway with a new motorway-motorway interchange between SH18/SH1. It will however not include an SH18/SH1 citybound ramp so not to encouraging Upper Harbour traffic onto the Northern Citybound.
- Extending the Busway to Albany with a separate project adding a new busway station at Rosedale;
- Walking Cycling Improvements;
- Widening sections of the Northern Motorway.
ATAP had $200 million to widening and presumably upgrade SH20B into full motorway standard. I hope this is one the Government re-thinks and instead prioritises Bus Rapid Transit for the corridor.
I think it is also likely that we will see the estimated $234 million upgrade of the SH18/SH16 interchange allowing direct motorway to motorway connections between SH16 north of Westgate and SH18.
To be honest, many of the first-decade strategic roading interventions in ATAP really didn’t worry me too much, its the more local stuff. Its the billions upon billions of dollars in arterial roads, and parallel mini expressways etc. for Transport for Future Urban Growth which concern me more.