The Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) and the draft Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP) represent a significant improvement over previous plans, having a much greater focus on walking and cycling projects. There are however still a lot of projects unfunded. Programmes like bus priority measures and cycling are only seeing a portion of the funding they need.
With so much that needs to be done, it’s important to ensure we’re getting good value out of projects. One project it appears we might not be getting good value out of is the Matakana Link Rd.
One of the main justifications for building the huge Puhoi to Warkworth motorway project was to allow traffic to bypass Warkworth. However, the reality is much of the traffic isn’t heading further north towards Northland but to holiday areas such as Omaha to the East and Northeast of Warkworth. That means significant amounts of traffic would still be needing to flow through the notorious Hill St intersection.
The Matakana Link Rd is intended to act as a bypass for that traffic, thereby helping the Hill St intersection work better.
It also sits in the middle of an area designated for future development and to act as part of a future arterial ring road in Warkworth, so in future won’t just be about through traffic – hence why it doesn’t connect directly to the end of the motorway.
Auckland Transport’s intention is it to open at about the same time as the Puhoi to Warkworth Motorway, which is due for completion in 2021.
However I’ve noticed something which seems off with the project. The draft RLTP which was consulted on recently lists the project as costing $89 million. In a time when it’s not uncommon to see projects in the billions it may not seem like much but when you break it down, it’s stupidly expensive. Here’s what AT say about the road.
- MLR will be approximately 1.4km long.
- It will be a 50km/hr urban arterial road.
- It will consist of:
- 4 general traffic lanes.
- Dedicated off road walking and cycling facilities.
- Landscaping areas/berms.
- Bridge across a stream.
Below are some indicative cross-sections of what is planned. Given it could be decades before the surrounding land is actually developed, there’ll be the situation where a four-lane urban road complete with protected cycle lanes and footpaths will existing in the middle of farmland, connecting two rural two lane roads that don’t even have a footpath.
The biggest issue is that at just 1.4km long, it means the project is costing an average of almost $64 million per km. To put that in perspective, if you look at some of the Roads of National Significance I highlighted the other day we have:
- Puhoi to Warkworth – 18.5km through some very ruggard countryside with massive earthworks and bridges – $709.5 million or $38m per km.
- Huntly Bypass – 15.2km including 3.5 million m³ of earthworks and a 60m cutting through the Taupiri range – $458 million or $30m per km.
- Hamilton Bypass – 21km and includes 17 bridges – $973 million or $46m per km.
- Cambridge Bypass – 16km and has a 230m bridge spanning a river – $218 million or $13.5m per km.
How does a “50km/hr road”, through what appears to be relatively flat ground, end up costing considerably more per kilometre than motorway projects through some of the trickiest terrain in the country? I also looked at other projects such as Penlink, Tauranga Eastern Link and the Kapiti Expressway. None come close to the cost per km suggested for this project.
It’s worth noting that back in 2016 when the project was brought forward by AT, they said it would cost $40 million for an urban road. This left me pondering three scenarios
- Auckland Transport have decided to plate the project in gold. If it has more than doubled then that’s extremely serious and AT need to answer has happened.
- AT have quietly changed the scope of the project and are hoping to use the extra money allocated for another of the projects shown on the map at the same time.
- In the rush to create ATAP and redo the RLTP someone has put the wrong figure in.
I think the third option is the most likely and if true, hopefully means the extra $50 million can go towards some of the currently unfunded projects in the RLTP. Some top candidates for that extra cash could include closing the gap on cyclings missing millions and/or rolling out more bus lanes.