First there was green-washing, where organisations will spin initiatives or market products as being more environmentally friendly than they are. In the transport space that morphed into PT-washing, where even the tiniest amount of improvement to public transport as part of a mega roading project became promoted as one of the main benefits of the project. Then there was bike-washing, the same thing but for bikes.

Now with the government and council focused on improving road safety, are we now starting to see safety-washing?

Last week Auckland Transport announced it was about to start work on the Medallion Drive Link project and touted it’s safety benefits.

Safety improvements in the Albany area

A long awaited roading project in Albany has been given the go-ahead.

Property negotiations have been sorted out allowing the work to start shortly on Medallion Link Road, completion is due by the middle of 2021. The Link road will relieve congestion and improve safety in the area, which has recently seen hundreds of new houses built.

As part of a package of other projects, AT is also considering a footpath extension at Gills Road and traffic signals at the intersection of Dairy Flat Highway and The Avenue.

Portfolio Delivery Director (Projects), David Nelson says these three projects were first identified by the then North Shore City Council.

The Medallion Drive Link will be two lanes, approximately 170 metres long and will include a new bridge, footpaths and bike riding facilities linking Fairview Avenue with Oteha Valley Road. Signals will be put in at Oteha Valley Road and a roundabout at Fairview Avenue.

“The link road will improve travel times, walking and cycling and provide a safer crossing on the very busy Oteha Valley Road for local school children in particular”, says Mr Nelson.

Medallion Link Road is budgeted to cost $33.9 million and will mean AT and Auckland Council can deliver essential infrastructure to support the growth of approximately 4,600 households in the Fairview Heights and Albany Heights area.

The Medallion Drive Link is a bypass of a part of part of the existing Fairview Ave containing an old one-lane bridge serving local farms – now farming thousands of auto-dependent homes. It has been discussed for about the last decade or so, having originally been started by the former North Shore City Council.

Now I’m not going to suggest there aren’t safety benefits from the project and the suggestion that the Oteha Valley Rd intersection will be signalised might help slow down that death-trap mini-motorway, something even more important given the school on the south-eastern corner of it. It just feels disingenuous to proclaim the safety benefits so much when they could easily have been dealt with separately when it’s really about building a new road. Note, that existing section of Fairview Rd has about 4.5-5k vehicles a day using it.

While on the topic of the Medallion Drive Link, why are we still building shared paths on brand new infrastructure in 2019.

If you want to see more about the project, as well as why it will now cost $33.9 million and not the $20.9 million in previous plans, the previously confidential paper to the most recent AT board meeting has been published.

This isn’t the first time AT have ‘safety-washed’ a project, another good example was a year ago when they consulted on changes to Botany Rd in East Auckland that they promoted as being about safety but was really just road widening and making things worse for pedestrians.

All of this may seem a little pedantic but I do worry that if we over sell the safety benefits on projects that aren’t directly about improving safety, it devalues the projects that are actually about improving safety and that could make it harder to implement those in the future.

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23 comments

  1. This is part of the old North Shore City wandering B route of Apollo, Hugh Green, McClymonts and Medallion.
    The money might be better spent at the other end connecting Apollo to Sunset Road. that would have greater benefits.

  2. Matt, you do dig up the most interesting stuff. Looking at the “previously confidential paper”…

    “The project has a long history due to the continued opposition by the only land owner affected by the project. The land owner opposed the Notice of Requirement for Designation (NoR) at the Council hearing and then appealed the decision of the Council to recommend confirmation of the NoR.”

    This is pretty sad. There are places where compulsory acquisition seems worthwhile but does this project really warrant it? Forced to spend time and money trying to keep his or her land, but losing. All for what? More road capacity (more road to maintain in future, more vkt eventually and all that).

    “A recommendation at the FCRC meeting was to progress Medallion Drive Link as it serves a separate area to the other two projects, has been strategically supported through the Environment Court, is funded largely through Auckland Council development contributions, has a limited consent period expiring in April 2021and would attract significant negative reputation impact for AT if cancelled”

    Yeah, why doesn’t this surprise me? AT are doing good work in many places. They don’t need to be a backlash-controlled organisation, but if anything, this has become worse in recent years.

    1. I don’t blame that guy one bit . Look at the elevated ramp going right past his house.. system is broken when this pointless stuff is consented but dominion rd housing rejected for shading a few pensioners twilight

      1. It is broken. Practically every Notice of Requirement goes through because the Requiring Authority grant their own consent. There is sham hearing at the Council first but all they can do is recommend changes or recommend it be withdrawn. The ‘Independent Commissioners’ that sit at the sham hearing know that if they don’t deliver the goods then they are not going to be appointed to further jobs.

        1. Is that what it is, miffy? I’m doing a bit of research into some of the shocking decisions by Independent Commissioners at the moment. Just can’t believe what they’re allowing to be consented against the wishes of the Council and way beyond the AUP. They seem to have no understanding of the technical area they’re making decisions on.

          Someone said to me last week that it depends on the commissioner; that some of them are really good. But that still seems like a broken system.

        2. It depends on which commissioners get appointed. If the Council staff want an approval you get the approval commissioners appointed to the job. If the staff want a decline they appoint the ones that turn stuff down. As for the AUP, if you read it almost everything should be approved. Staff are finally understanding what they have created and are starting to try and subvert it to get the outcomes they want rather than what the plan says. One even said privately that if they don’t then anything can be consented.

          Regardless, the Notice of Requirement process is specifically designed to make it look like someone cares while ensuring the project almost always gets through. Basin Reserve was an anomaly that truly shocked everyone. I guess once in a while Commissioners do the right thing regardless of their future prospects.

  3. Shared paths are now an anachronism for new build major transport routes. They reflect the previous total car domination with only minor amounts of pedestrian and unpowered cycle traffic. The rapid uptake of the tens of thousands of electric scooters and cycles requires a complete fundemental overhaul of roading design and regulation rather then the present adhocisim.

  4. Wow $34 million for 170m of road. That roughly the same amount as was identified in the 2018-28 Cycling Programme Business case to deliver the whole of the City Centre Cycle Network.
    Shows where the priorities lie when progress on delivering the City Centre Cyle network appears to be stagnant (other than some of the UCP projects which should have been completed by 2018 anyway) and AT can find $34M to deliver 170m of new road.

    1. +1 on that ! $34 million for 170m of road. Quite extraordinary. That’s $200,000 / metre of road, but also – its going to take a team of workers a couple of months on the digger and the grader and then the roller – I’m fairly sure they aren’t going to get a chunk of that $34 million. Somewhere in this mess, there is a rather large Rort going on, and we the taxpayers are getting fleeced.

      Bring back the Ministry of Works !

  5. What a farcical project – can’t believe more rubbish roading projects like this are still being built – those paths will connect to nothing, too, Oteha is a shocker of a road for anything other than cars. I really, really hate Albany.

    1. And Botany and all those other car-centric suburbs that Auckland Council keeps stupidly allowing. Like Glenfield in the 70’s. Yuck.

  6. Agree that shared paths are terrible and shouldn’t be built.

    As for Oteha, it was previously a 100km/h road which was great then all the development happened and the road was widened with median and footpaths built. It is absolutely appropriate that a large arterial road like this that has minimal driveways off it and that has a median has a speed limit faster than 50km/h. The school you talk about, while bordering the road actually has its entrance off a side road further around and is fenced off to prevent access from Oteha. The only thing is that yes the roundabout should be replaced with lights as that would allow proper pedestrian access to this new road (and frankly that roundabout has been s#%t ever since it was built).
    Speaking of roundabouts how about we hold AT to account for the wasted money (probably millions) spend on planting and replanting flowers every year in roundabouts and traffic islands etc? Just plant some small bushes that don’t need maintenance and be done with it! That money can be used for other purposes.

  7. Fairview – Medallion link should have been built 15 years ago. Almost all the Fairview housing has been built, many years ago, and there is not much possible to change what the road needs to provide. The space available is limited by the slightly adversarial landowner and the litigation behind acquiring the land. AT are making the best possible out of the need to make a decent and safe road connection. Still plenty more to do with Oteha Valley Road in the future.

  8. At $200 million / km you have to wonder who’s asking the hard questions at AT, that’s light rail money for a tiny fraction of the users. Presumably we’ll require four more business cases before we can proceed? Or does that not apply to roads?

  9. Safety-washing is a much more serious issue to discuss. Now that every project is expected to take safety as a first design principle, it is proper to explain the safety outcomes. But not every project succeeds in achieving all the outcomes desirable. The reasons that prevent the best outcomes deserve to be stated and understood, even though it may not be pleasant reading. This is especially the case for projects that have been approved in principle with particular constraints many years before the design is final. Only limited improvements can be introduced to these old projects – it is surprising how much improvement can be fitted in, considering the origins and limits of some of them.
    Honesty is the only protection of reputation against labelling as safety-wash. Any project may be open to criticism for what it does not achieve and shortcomings should be pointed out. Further work in the future is often needed before all the possible benefits can be achieved, but this should not excuse “not-safe” measures. It may be a necessary compromise to wait for better bus and bike facilities, but not to wait for a hazard to be made safe.

    1. Yes, I agree with most of this. And I think honesty would go a long way in building a society where we can discuss things in a healthier way.

    2. Well, there’s no provision for separate cycle lanes (despite the high cost), and the first listed benefit of the project is that the link road will improve travel times. Improved travel times means faster vehicles, so this is certainly not what I would call a safety-led project.

  10. I’m picking the bulk of the cost will be the bridge? The land will be costly too. Looking at it, that “lifestyle village” would pretty much fit in what they have to buy.

    If you don’t understand why it’s being done, use street view up Fairview from the Oteha corner. You would struggle to find something like that anywhere else in greater Auckland.

    That area must have been planned sometime in the 90s, construction started about 2001. If the farmer didn’t want to sell, perhaps the council didn’t see any great urgency in getting the land, given population pressure was much lower then.

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