In just over a week, work will start on transforming Auckland’s Downtown area with a series of projects due to be completed by the America’s Cup in 2021. There’s a lot going on and here are some of the key projects being delivered.
Quay Street utilities
The first project to kick things off is to relocate all of the underground services. This work is due to start on 27 December and run through to April 2019. This will see Quay St narrowed down to a single lane each way in places and the rest of the works will see it stay that way. The cycleway will remain open during that time but will be moved over to accommodate the works.
It is going to be fascinating to see what impact this has on traffic in the city. Like with the CRL works on Albert St, my guess is people will adapt and divers will find alternative routes or change their travel – which is exactly what AT are encouraging people to do, using the phrase “change your commute, change your route” in this video about the works.
Potentially throwing a spanner in the works, yesterday it was revealed a group of residents on Princes Wharf want the works stopped
Legal action is being planned by a powerful group of waterfront residents and businesses to stop Auckland Transport’s plans to narrow Quay St from four lanes to two and initial enabling works due to start next week.
David Ramsay, chairman of the Shed 23 Princes Wharf residents’ committee, said a group would go to the High Court challenging what was expected to be a non-notified consent to allow the initial works to be carried out.
Quay St Seawall Strengthening
Kicking off once the utilities are moved, and critical to all of the projects, is the seismic strengthening of the Quay St seawall. There are four sections that will be completed by mid-2020 between Princes Wharf and Marsden Wharf.
Quay St Upgrade
Quay St is getting a major overhaul and as mentioned above, will be narrowed to two lanes in places, such as between Lower Albert St and Commerce St. The road narrowing will mean there’s more space for people and plants along one of the busiest parts of the city centre. This is one of the longest of the projects with work starting early next year and continuing till late 2020. AT say:
A revitalised waterfront street will be created, with wider footpaths and easier navigation, designed for a 30km/h speed, with street furniture, trees, and opportunities for business and events.
We will achieve this by:
- Reducing four lanes of traffic to two, from Lower Albert Street to Commerce Street.
- Dedicated bus lanes between Lower Albert Street and Lower Hobson Street.
- Wider footpaths.
- Increasing space for events and trading opportunities.
- A cycleway separated from traffic.
- Simplifying navigation between buses, ferries and trains.
- Enhancing the natural environment.
Below are a couple of impressions of what it will look like.
Downtown Public Space
One of most prominent of the changes will be the new Downtown public space in the ferry basin. This is in part to replace QE2 Square and if it comes out looking like these images, then it have been worth it.
Construction is due to start in late 2019 and be completed in late 2020. They say that after America’s Cup “it will be extended further towards Queens Wharf“. Here’s another shot from the ferry terminal looking back at the new space.
Ferry Basin Redevelopment
While on the topic of ferries, the redevelopment of the ferry terminal also represents one of my biggest concerns. The plan is to add six more berths down the side of Queens Wharf to replace some of the ones being lost for the works above, with more to come post-2021. My concern is that by the time it’s all completed, some ferry users are going to have to walk up to 300m (or more) down Queens Wharf just to get to/from their ferry which makes catching a ferry that much harder, especially for those with mobility issues.
One other change is that the HOP gates will be moved to the entrances of the pontoons to open up the space in the ferry terminal for public access.
Downtown Bus Interchanges
As part of the Commercial Bay project, a laneway will be build east-west through the site from Britomart to a bus interchange on Lower Albert St, effectively continuing the Te Ara Tahuhu walkway that runs through the Britomart precinct. That will make it easier to transfer between trains and buses such as the NX1. Lower Albert St will be upgraded which will improve the experience for bus user. From what I understand, the NX1 and Birkenhead buses will continue to use the western (northbound) side of the street and buses from the Northwest will loop around Sturdee St and Quay St and use the eastern (southbound) side. Buses from the Northwest used to terminated nearby but were pulled back to the southern edge of the city due to the CRL works.
Construction will begine late next year and continue till late 2020. I do hope they give people a formal street level, mid-block crossing option for people. Having come through laneway, I can see people wanting to cross the road immediately instead of up and over on the over-bridge or having to walk to the Customs or Quay St intersection, especially if they’re trying to get a bus. I can see a lot of people just trying to dash across.
A second bus interchange for buses from the South and East is currently proposed for Quay St alongside Britomart. AT say they’re still investigating this option. I continue to hope they’re able to find another option because this one is very poor across a range of metrics.
Last on the list is the Mooring dolphin which are structures that will be built off the end of Queens Wharf so the cruise ships that are currently too large can berth there. Work will start on this early next year and continue until early 2020.
There’s certainly a lot going on and most of these will significantly improve Auckland’s downtown area. This will also tie into the work being delivered around Britomart, such as the new public space on Queen St between Customs and Quay streets.
AT is currently holding a consultation on the works, with feedback closing on Friday, should you wish to submit – something perhaps more important now that this new group are opposing the changes.