There were plenty of reactions to the government’s infrastructure announcement a few weeks ago which saw them fund a bunch of big roading projects. One of those was from former Transport and Finance minister Steven Joyce. Apart from the general politicking of it, this bit stood out to me.

Now we have more general acceptance that new multi-lane highways should be built, this is a great time to ask ourselves how much needs to be built.

What is the correct size of our expressway network? What should our goals be now that the first roads of national significance are nearly finished?

There’s still a lot to be done. I can’t see Australia for example accepting the lack of four lanes between cities like Tauranga and Hamilton, or Auckland and Whangarei. Or four lane highways petering out a few kilometres outside cities the size of Christchurch.

And I doubt most Kiwis living near those roads accept it either. Meanwhile as a result of Left-wing activism Wellington city remains a permanent traffic jam.

It is true that a lot of our rural highways don’t need the four-laning treatment. There is no point four-laning the Desert Road or State Highway One through Southland because there isn’t the traffic to justify it. A number of well-placed passing lanes do the trick in most places.

However around six per cent of our state highways are high-use.

They account for more than a third of all kilometres travelled on the highway network. Upgrading them is about safety as well as reasonable travel times. Stressed and impatient drivers making rash and risky decisions are an under-rated contributor to New Zealand’s road toll.

With all that in mind, here is a starter for ten on what a new state highway building plan for New Zealand could look like: three networks of modern four lane highways based through and around our three biggest cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

The Northern Expressway network would safely and efficiently link Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga and Rotorua. The Central Expressway network would do the same for Wellington, Hutt Valley, Levin, and Palmerston North, on towards Whanganui and over the hill to Hawkes Bay.

The Southern network would radiate out from Christchurch, north to around Amberley, south to Ashburton and on towards Timaru, and inland towards the Alps.

A decent chunk of each is now already built. Completed over say a twenty year period the three networks would provide safe, reliable, stress-free travelling of a standard that is taken now as a given in the rest of the developed world.

Firstly there are plenty of examples in Australia of cities similar sizes to Hamilton and Tauranga that are not connected by expressways. For example Ballarat (105k) and Geelong (268k) are the same distance apart as Hamilton and Tauranga and the road between them is about the same quality as most of our state highways. In Queensland, Cairns (181k) and Townsville (153k) are a bit further apart at about 300km but similarly have just a two-lane highway between them.

Joyce is correct that that many of our state highways simply don’t have the traffic volumes to justify upgrading to expressway standard. Where I’m sure we differ is the amount of roads that fall into that category. Yes, a third of all kilometres travelled happen on high-use roads but that third can be made up from just the state highways within Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. As I’ll show later in the post, as soon as you get outside of those areas, volumes drop dramatically.

Expressway networks

Perhaps what I thought was most interesting was his suggestions of the expressway networks. Clearly this thought process was been behind much of the previous governments and Nationals current transport policy and while it might appeal to some on paper, that changes if you take more than a superficial look at them. In each of these three networks the red represents expressway/motorway segments that already exist, yellow are projects already underway or announced by the government last month and green are hypothetical projects mentioned by Joyce above or were in Nationals transport policy at the last election.

  • Northern Expressway network – Within Auckland I’ve included in here the East West Link and a bypass of Huapai (this hasn’t been on any list but is in the Supporting Growth work). Outside of Auckland also includes an extension of SH1 4-laning to Taupo as well as SH2 from Omokoroa to past Katikati, both of which were in Nationals last election policy. In total these additions are about 330km of new expressway.
  • Central Network – I’ve made some assumptions on just where these would go but they amount to over 275km of expressway.
  • Southern Network – I’ve assumed by inland towards the Alps he means along SH73 towards Darfield. To complete this network would require an additional 200km of expressway.

How much would it cost?

All up that’s over 800km of new expressway and it’s not going to come cheap. To get an indication of just what it might cost I took a look at the projects just announced and many similar types of projects completed over the last decade or so to provide a reference. As part of this I excluded projects like the widening of existing motorways but I have included a number of 2-lane highway realignments, such as the recently completed Matakohe Bridges as they’ve often involved decent scale earthworks and bridges.

In all cases I looked at a cost per km to provide a better comparison and I adjusted them for inflation. As you can see below, there’s a wide variety of costs as each project will have different amounts of earthworks and structures needed. As such the price range for expressway grade roads seems to vary from about $15 million per km to about $80 million per km.

For the hypothetical network above, in cases where we know the estimated costs, such as from a recent business case, I’ve used those figures, otherwise I’ve used a figure of $30 million per km. In total these motorways/expressways would cost the country close to $27 billion to build on top of existing commitments such as the over $4 billion recently announced. Even spread out evenly over 20 years, as Joyce suggests, it would leave little or no money for any other, likely more valuable, project.

So they’re expensive but do they make sense?

When should we build them?

One of the projects we have a good idea of costs about is Warkworth to Wellsford. The project isn’t funded but recently the NZTA announced they were going to be lodging resource consent for it next month – probably a part of refilling the bucket of ‘shovel ready’ road projects for the next time the government comes knocking for projects to quickly fund. As part of this, they’ve also released the business case for the project.

The road will be 26km and has an estimated cost range of $1.7 to $2.1 billion, meaning it has an average cost of $65-85 million per km. This is much higher than many other four-lane highway projects and one of the reasons for this is likely to be that the project includes an 850m tunnel which they say is to avoid the need for a 150m high cut through the hillside. For a quick comparison, the Johnsons Hills tunnels just south of Puhoi are 340m, the Victoria Park tunnel is 440m and Waterview is 2.4km in length.

However while there are benefits to the project, they’re not that large as the traffic volumes are relatively low (12-15k vehicles per day) and over it’s length it only saves about 3 minutes of travel time. This means the Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) for the project is just 0.7, meaning it returns only 70c for every dollar it costs to build.

But what’s particularly interesting about the business case is it includes a set of project triggers for when it might be needed. These are:

A mix of criteria is proposed to the trigger the implementation for the Project, being at least two of the following criteria:

  • DSI savings forecast from Dome Valley safety improvements not achieved within 3 years
  • A 30% increase in total number of closure hours per annum from 2018 levels
  • Forecast traffic volumes are predicted to exceed 25,000 AADT

It’s the last one that is most interesting as it provides a useful reference point for other potential state highway projects. For reference, most sections of the Waikato expressway do about 25-30k vehicles per day.

State Highway Traffic Volumes

Finally, something I was actually working on from before the announcement. The graphs below show average daily traffic volumes on a number of state highways. I’ve included a line showing what 25k per day looks like. I’ve also kept the volumes at the same scale

A few things that these highlight.

  • Auckland is in a league of its own. Even traffic volumes on the busiest section of motorway in Wellington or Christchurch doesn’t come close to the amount of traffic on most of Auckland’s motorways.
  • The busiest section of motorway in the county is between Khyber Pass and Gillies Ave with just over 200k vehicles per day.
  • Even existing sections of the Waikato Expressways only carry around 25k vehicles per day.
  • Apart from a few urban areas, there’s almost no-where where volumes are close to that 25k per day threshold.
  • The first graph really highlights how long SH1 is north of Auckland

The low volumes on most of our state highway network combined with the high costs of upgrading to expressway standards suggests that likely the best course of action are more projects such as those 2-lane realignments in the cost graph above. Combine those with safety upgrades such as median and side barriers, additional passing lanes and we can probably get most of the benefits of an expressway for a fraction of the cost.

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  1. “we can probably get most of the benefits of an expressway for a fraction of the cost” But we can probably get even more benefits from investment in public transport, walking and cycling, which would include health benefits. Would be good if someone’s got time to do the sums on that.

    1. I don’t think walking and cycling are much of a substitute for the type of journeys that involve expressways for many people.

      1. However, rural roads were once for walking, horses, cycling. That’s been stripped away. Now people are consigned to having to drive. I’d prefer to see the ability to walk, ride horses and cycle safely on these roads returned before we spend more money on speeding up the driving.

        1. Absolutely. A 10km ride by ebike on a rural road into the nearest settlement. Is more than doable but totally insane being attempted on a 100kmh, 1.5 lane wide carriage way, often with nowhere to pull over

        2. My sister lives on one just 5 kms outside Palmerston North. Her kids are basically stuck at home until they turn 16 and get a license as there is no way they could walk or cycle anywhere safely.

        3. That’s really terrible, Jimbo. Terrible for all the people who are affected, and terrible for the world.

          This sort of neglect of regional needs has been identified as a core reason for urban drift, creating problems for cities trying to take climate action.

        4. I’m wondering if that is the norm for kids in urban Auckland too.

          If it is, then it should not come as a surprise that people look at keeping children in apartments as borderline neglect.

          The only streets close to where I live where I think people usually drive below 50km/h is the block of Hinemoa Street and Birkenhead Ave within the Birkenhead shops (aka Highbury), and that block has zero population. As soon as you’re outside that, even on the smallest streets it is customary to go up to the speed limit, even on stretches so short that this is barely possible.

        5. “If it is, then it should not come as a surprise that people look at keeping children in apartments as borderline neglect.”


        6. Flat Bush where I live is full of 2 story houses about a 2 meters apart with cars parked all over the place. There are council green parks several blocks away. Some kids walk to school. But I think social life is better for kids living in an apartment close to the local pool, library, park, shops, after school cultural and sporting activities. There is abetter chance too that the apartments are close to bikeways and stations and commuting time is much less than for those living in distant Flat Bush.

        7. @KLK, what is so hard to understand about that? I’m not sure when kids outgrow a backyard, but they’ll outgrow that apartment at about the time when they start walking.

          I know there are perfectly good examples of apartment living overseas. We’re talking about Auckland here. Many apartments have no outdoor space except for parking. Even if there is some space it is supposed to be ‘quiet’. Streets are so hostile that kids can’t go out at all — especially in the city centre. This negates any advantage of having things “close by” (which you often don’t actually have anyway). If you have the dreaded ‘paper thin walls’ kids can’t even play inside. Meanwhile we can all kick down on parents whose kids are ‘glued to a screen’.

        8. Roeland: “what is so hard to understand about that”

          Read Jim’s post above. And try getting out more. If you think apartments are bad, locking your kids into mind-numbing suburbia so parents can reminisce about a quarter-acre dream must be a form of child abuse too.

          The apartments in Auckland are not that different from others globally. But sure, “Auckland is different”. And to let you in on a secret, those other countries have kids too who do just fine, perhaps even better than our own.

          P.S. I outgrew my backyard as soon as I could ride a bike.

        9. I think what Roeland is really saying is that he knows apartments can be good, but thinks in Auckland they, like suburban houses, are surrounded by child-unfriendly streetscapes. So if you’re a kid, you’re mainly stuck in whatever the property has, which isn’t much if it’s an apartment.

          Tell you what though, I had to pick something up from Sandringham today and cycled through the Roy Clements Tree Way. I thought the apartment blocks there had a good outlook onto a child-friendly park.

          Spoiled of course, by emerging at Alberton Ave and going past numerous cars parked outside Marist with their engines chugging away and spilling toxins into the air… Not sure why, at about 1 pm.

        10. Apartments overseas have the downside that you have to move overseas to live in one. Some people actually take that option.

          Maybe it also depends on how rich you are. I sometimes go out to Wynyard Quarter which looks nice enough, but, if you have to ask you cannot afford it.

          Fully agree with the remark about learning how to ride a bicycle — that is how it was for me back in the day as well. Note that you can learn to ride a bicycle in a backyard, but not inside in an apartment. You could perhaps commandeer the driveway of the parking lot but that is not ideal.

          (Jim also noted that the quarter acre dream is kind of dead — they don’t make them with backyards anymore)

          So, my original question. How common is it for kids to also be locked behind the front fence in suburbs, or even the CBD? That is what makes or breaks the idea of apartment living especially for families.

          The follow up is perhaps what is happening at other developments like Unitec and Takapuna?

        11. Which country do you live in? You can still see people on horses, bikes and people walking on rural roads all around the country, take a trip out to Coatesville or around that area and you’ll see plenty of horses and cyclists. I guess part of you problem is you don’t drive so most of what you hear is anecdotal evidence rather than seeing it for yourself.

        12. @roeland there are certainly lots of (presumably) apartment dwelling kids learning to ride their bikes on Te Ara I Whiti ( the pink cycleway ) which is nice to see, but also depressing that its possibly the only safe space for that near where they live.

          I’m looking at buying my first home, and agree with the comments about auckland apartments. My 18 month *LOVES* being outside, and our current rental with small lawn is enough.

          I’ve looked at apartments & townhouses with outside space and local accessibility as a top priority. There is NOTHING I can afford that suits, without moving to a car centric dead zone like Albany. So many apartment complexes and townhouse developments have the only outdoor space dedicated to parking.

          At least if I move to New Lynn I can have some lawn space in the suburbs.

        13. Yes that is correct. There are no pocket parks nearby, and even if there were, the street grid is basically a suburban street grid on steroids. Parking is squeezed into every square metre where it fits. And if Cook Street or Hobson Street aren’t depressing enough, walk through Nicholas Street and imagine what just a couple of bollards could do there.

          It is too bad we cannot have townhouses fronting on regular streets, like in other countries. It always has to be a cluster on a private driveway. Which has then the consequence of always needing a body corporate.

          But still, using that driveway purely for parking is a waste of space. If the Dutch can turn public streets into play streets surely we can start with doing the same with those driveways (and this time you can’t blame the council if that doesn’t happen — you can blame this squarely on New Zealand being “different”).

      2. Would be interesting to know the average length of trip for state highway users (excluding truckies). Would say a high proportion is the local community.

  2. Wow amazing post. Some consultant would have taken 6 months and charged $200k to do this.

    My main takeaway is that we’re basically done when it comes to necessary intercity expressways. Basically only a Kumeu bypass looks anywhere near justified.

    Hopefully this means NZTA can focus on excellent value for money small projects that they’ve ignored for the past decade.

    1. Yah, tiz an amazing post. Seems like loads of work. Good onya Matt.

      Has NZTA done anything similar to this? Where would we look to see that?

      How does Stephen Joyce get away with pushing his expensive ideas?

        1. Why are a radio broadcaster and a woodwork teacher considered experts in the transport and housing areas by National amd their voters?

        2. “Why are a radio broadcaster and a woodwork teacher considered experts in the transport and housing areas by National and their voters?”

          Probably in the same way a well known transport blogger recently elected to the NZTA is considered an expert by a lot of lefties.

        3. Vance – good question, deserves a good answer. The thing is, the “leftie” transport blogger has studied and lectured in the subject of urban design and transport, for a large number of years, and is from a family where architecture and design was a regular discussion virtually every day of his life. So, I would say he is generally reasonably well-qualified to advocate for the rights of cyclists and pedestrians as fully valued members of the community and fully deserves his place on the board of NZTA, where that side of the argument had previously never been promoted.

          I don’t know much about the background of the woodwork teacher, other than that he was a good woodwork teacher before he became a politician and was then promoted to positions of power because he was generally good at getting on with most of the other MPs. Nice guy, but no great intellect or study of the subject of earthquake remediation and so generally, he has made a bit of a hash of it. Sad but true.

          The radio broadcaster was initially training as a vet at Massey, lost interest and became a student radio DJ, and eventually found that he was a millionaire through building, running, and buying radio stations. As far as I know he had no general ability or specific knowledge about transport infrastructure, but most of his work was based on “reckons”, hence he reckons that what NZ needs is more 4 lane expressways. While there is no doubt he is a very competent businessman, I’m not sure that really he had any ability to design a transport network.

          How’s that for an answer Vance?

        4. Vance and Twyfords past experience makes him better how? He was a journalist and trade union organiser. What about our PM she worked in a fish and chip shop and soup kitchen.

          Most of our ministers in the portfolios they hold don’t have a lot of experience in the subject, that’s what comes with having a shallow pool of people who want to be politicians.

    2. Thanks Trev and Mum of 2
      I agree, I think that by in large the expressways are done. There are perhaps a couple of projects near the edge, such as Cambridge to Piarere, but after that there doesn’t seem like much close

      1. really, you really think they are done, I don’t, there’s a lot more re-aligning and dividing of the state highways to be done, a lot of the fixes for safety will probably result in 2+2 highways. If you’re going to add passing lanes then it’s not a lot more trouble to make it 2+2 opposed to 2+1.

        1. There’s a big difference in cost between adding passing lanes and building 4 lanes. Passing lanes can be added just where they make sense; where it’s easiest and cheapest to do so. The expensive stuff of adding 2 extra lanes through every tight passage, on every curve around every hillside is in a totally different ballpark. 2 + 1 is somewhere in the middle.

    3. NZTA will focus on whatever the current govt forces them to.

      Given their culture, the default is lanes of heavy tarmac as far as the eye can see. The next government kowtowing to construction companies and financiers like Joyce did will only encourage that focus.

      Any government genuine about sustainable transport and a low-carbon economy has to take strong action to make NZTA deliver on that. No time for pussyfooting or backing down as dinosaurs preserve their tar-smothered past.

  3. Steven Joyce is no longer an MP so his opinions about the future of road transport are not relevant now. Of course however, they are rubbing off on many of the local National MPs who have been consistently arguing the case for these four lane roads (Falloon, Doocey, Muller, Reti to name a few).

  4. Massive oversized uneconomic highway plans PLUS fighting to kill any programme to accelerate EV uptake is simply climate change denial.

    These are Joyce’s party’s positions. Whatever they claim.

    1. Yes, the feebate scheme news is really disappointing. It would have been a positive step as a pre-cursor to bigger action in the future, all achieved at negative abatement cost. It’s difficult to see a good policy reason for not supporting it. I suspect it’s election year positioning on NZ First’s part.

  5. In Christchurch a second Waimak bridge to the west of the current bridge and converting Pound Rd on the west side of the airport to SH1 might provide more useful benefits compared with a motorway to Ashburton…

  6. I thought Joyce would be a self driving car believer. If so why build expressways? Wouldn’t it be better to build alternative self driving car only roads? They wouldn’t need to be 4 lanes as they wouldn’t need to overtake (and if they did they could just negotiate with each other).

  7. Amazing work Matt. This is the sort of investigative journalism or grunty policy work that is missing in places like the NZ Herald or MoT.

    I wonder if there is a further breakdown of these traffic volumes to include heavy vehicles. I get the feeling that Joyce wants these expensive roads on stretches that trucking companies use most… In places where additional rail funding (maintance, alignment, and depots) could make a big dent in trucking volumes thus making these roads a lot safer, reliable and easier to drive.

  8. It would be interesting to compare crashes P.A for the various sections of highway upgraded in the last 20 years (before and after upgrade), with those proposed and further afield.
    In terms of SH1 Waikato, extending past Tirau and the Tauranga and Rotorua highway junctions feels justifiable to me.
    What is happening with the East-West link? The government still hasn’t finished their review and its 7 months to the election.

    1. A full analysis would also need to look at the crashes on rural roads near the sections of highway. This can be worse due to the traffic induced by the upgraded highway and due to the higher speeds that drivers are expecting to be able to drive at. Also, there are often dangerous roads bypassed, and the theoretical transfer of traffic from them to the safer highways strengthens the business case. But often the dangerous roads aren’t closed, nor turned into access-only roads, nor even de-tuned to have speed limits in line with their most dangerous parts, so the danger remains.

      1. The SH1B through Gordonton is exactly this. A terrible road with lots of traffic, tractors, cyclists, trucks, dangerous overtaking. Still a 100k limit despite driving through Hamilton being a fine option. The new expressway will bypass Hamilton at least. I hope SH1B becomes a 70k local rode or something.

  9. Excellent analysis Matt. I agree with the other comments above that most of the expressway building that should be done has (or is about to be) done.
    However, I think there’s a vacuum – which Joyce et al are filling with noise about building pointless expressways – that’s crying out for a loud and clear campaign for where we should be actively improving (eg re-aligning / safety-barriering) current roads. The Remutaka hill (local to me) springs to mind as one such stretch of highway, Brynderwyns would be another. That, and getting anything like an uplift in spending on PT between cities.

    1. In realigning and adding safety barriers and passing lanes, the increased cost going to 2+2 instead of building 2+1 probably isn’t very high and justifiable in the long run.

  10. Great post. Yes agree the information in these lower graphs especially communicates the volumes comparisons very well; showing us where the focus of spending should go.

  11. Excellent way of showing data in a simple way. Would be good base to add other related data. Maybe could map DSI counts (assuming available) to see how they correlate to road traffic / road type.
    Is the 25,000 AADT a trigger just for that project or some wider guideline?
    Would be good to see say monthly average traffic levels or even peak levels. While we shouldn’t be designing for peaks we need to consider them. The annual averages don’t reflect typical use cases. This is exaggerated for the “holiday highways” where the peak – off peak rates are vastly different but so would the DSI rates (I assume).
    I am a fan of the expressways but don’t think they need be all 4 lanes. 2 lanes with regular long passing lanes and central barriers should be sufficient for a lot of the roads. We still need to improve our roads and we can get better bang for buck by not gold plating them including building expensive tunnels to keep a few people happy.
    For Wellsford, all that is needed is central barriers, some better alignments and a bypass of Wellsford itself by upgrading existing roads / intersections.

    1. Agreed Stu, some sort of middle ground solution would be great that involves median barriers, more passing lanes, avoids windy bits and bypasses main centres. No need for massive tunnels, or hill cuts most of the time.

      The 2+1 road design common in Sweden comes to mind which is safe and cost effective (as compared with gold-lated four lane expressways).

      1. It was easy to convert many roads to 2+1 in Sweden because the original 1+1 roads were 13-14m wide. How many of our 1+1 roads are 13-14m wide?

        Sweden has significantly more limited access 2+2 & 3+3 motorways than we have in NZ, about 2300km.

        I enjoy driving in Sweden, the roads are really good, they feel safer than in NZ despite the higher speed limits, IMO it’s because the driving standards are much higher. kiwis are terrible drivers.

  12. I suspect the voting public often get convinced about the need for more expressways based on bad experiences travelling on roads into large cities at the end of holiday weekends. For example I was on an InterCity bus on sunday afternoon on the weekend after Waitangi Day and it took a full hour and a half between Levin and Otaki, about an hour longer than normal. So travellers stuck in their vehicles on these few times think we do need an expressway between Otaki and Levin whereas objective data suggests we do not.

  13. +1
    Rule of thumb is that about 20,000 to 25,000 pcu per day justify 4 laning.

    Suggests much of the currently 1×1 SH network can have wire rope medians and passing bays added in the foreseeable future to address the safety issues. The capacity is not required.

    If the b/c for Warkworth to Wellsford is < 1 then it should be delayed or down scaled until it meets the minimum fundable b/c. There are better projects to spend the money on.

  14. BPs recent forecast for overall global oil decline rate is 4.5% per year, on top of which the rules, known as IMO 2020, will affect more than 50,000 merchant ships if we don’t build an infrastructure that takes into account oil decline and lowing EROEI we wont have much of an economy if cars become a dead asset and no decent public transport system.

    When is the world going to take climate change seriously we shouldn’t be having this conversion about more roads, if we want a future we have to accept we are not going to have personal transport that requires the building and maintaining of roads, we have little time to change to a public transport, walking and cycling mode of transport in an energy deficient world..

    1. You may be surprised that the world is not going to end tomorrow (or even next week). In the meantime we do need to keep improving our roads (as well as grow the PT alternatives) otherwise our road related DSI will far outweigh any climate related DSI.
      Is BP’s estimate based on the move to electric vehicles and the efficiency of ICE ones – particularly in developing countries.
      Like many people I can see my next car being electric assuming more choice and better pricing in a couple of years time. My current car is about 50% more efficient than my last even though it is more powerful. As these more efficient cars make their way down the 2nd / 3rd hand chain, NZ’s fleet will become more efficient.

      1. Stu, you may be surprised at how fast pressure to de-carbonize will increase in the next few years. Way faster than the current uptake of EVs can offset. Unless some turn-around consensus that atmospheric CO2 is not causing global warming can be arrived-at, then expect proposals for new expressways to get an increasingly short shrift.

  15. Glad that the Dome Valley safety improvements have received a mention. The work has been going on for some time yet had largely gone under the radar. From what I have been told, the aim is to have the road in the valley three laned with wire rope barriers separating the opposing traffic, with the passing lanes going from side to side, as per much of the Melbourne to Sydney coastal highway.

  16. I agree with Matt and the other comments that providing all the proposed new expressways would cost a lot of money compared to the return you’d get. Whereas if they shifted back to something like the old method of a BCR-led approach to picking out the problem hot-spots across the whole network they would be able to provide much more benefits for the same money, or the same benefits for much less money. They would also be providing improvements for a much wider set of people.

    If they wanted to argue that any new expressways are justified they should provide comparisons of peak-hour traffic to capacity and identification of those corridor lengths which are at / near capacity, as well as providing benefit-cost ratio comparisons for the different options.

    Joyce’s comments are disappointing. Not long before he left office he was arguing for more value for money spending.

    I’m pretty sure the road between Brisbane and Sydney still has some two lane sections, and if not they’ve only been widened in the last couple of years.

    1. J
      You are right , no one is proposing 30b in one hit. It is more of a constant stream of expensive, very low value projects.

      If you read this blog you will see that it has well researched and argued proposals for change in a number of areas, bikes being the smallest component.

      Tell me, almost three years on has anyone found that $12b budget hole? Or is the search for it not “shovel ready” for “hard working kiwis”.

      1. The national party most certainly are, and more, afterall it is ‘only’ $3b per year for a decade. Why do you think Joyce is running these pieces, for the $0.50 a word fee?

  17. Luke. I assume you are also disappointed by how unqualified for their portfolios our dear leader, her finance minister and most of the rest of the government are. Their expertise is politics and hugging babies.

    1. Government ministers are not expected to be prior experts in their portfolios. But they are expected to listen and learn, from advisers and experts who are more knowledgeable. Joyce and Brownlee didn’t do this. They had all the answers in their gut.
      The most qualified person in parliament on transport matters is Julie Anne Genter. They refused to listen to her.

      1. JAG is refusing to listen to experts when it comes to the problem of drivers using cellphones while driving.

        So far, it seems her only response to road safety issues is to want to lower speed limits further.

        1. Who are these experts you speak of? And what makes you think JAG (and the government) are ignoring the issue?

        2. The police are experts when it comes to road safety Alex.

          They’ve commented numerous times on the issue of distracted drivers.

          The fact the government hasn’t taken steps to increase the ridiculously low $80 fine for using a cellphone while driving proves they don’t take the issue seriously.

          Contrast our weak penalties to those in Australia where you can be fined up to $1000 AUD for the same offense.

          Even their lowest fine is 3 times ours.

        3. “it seems her only response to road safety issues is to want to lower speed limits further.”

          Safer speeds might be talked about the most, being the biggest challenge to a certain mindset, but they are the tip of the iceberg of the safety stuff that JAG is managing to get through.

          Keep it up!

    2. This was a response to a comment above re lack of relevant expertise of Joyce etc so I was just pointing out that most politicians are not experts in their portfolios including the current government. As you say they get advice from experts. Of course having some real world experience outside of politics and public service does help them interpret the experts opinions.

  18. Generally, I think Matt’s posts here are very reasonable but this seems a little opportunistic to take Joyce’s (op-ed?) piece and believe it is what he realistically wants and or thinks could be achieved.

    How does the analysis pan out at say 35-50% of what has been suggested?
    – Wellsford to Tauranga (No Taupo / Rotorua) c.25-30% of total
    – Wellington to Palmerston North (No Whanganui / Hawke’s Bay) c.20-25% of total
    – Amberley to Ashburton (No Alps / Timaru) c.50% of total

    These more realistic and economic sections would seem to be a reasonable set of 20 year highway project(s).

    Whangarei, Napier-Hastings and even Dunedin could have smaller independent highway projects developed over a 30 year period too.

    A more realistic figure seems to be an extra 300km of expressway with at least 100km being built on the Canterbury Plains which should be fairly inexpensive.

    $50mn per km *300km / 20 years would be $750mn per year.

    1. The graph’s in Matt’s post are showing that the traffic volumes on most of the lengths you propose are well below what is needed to justify four-laning. It also doesn’t look like it is needed for some lengths already announced like Otaki-Levin.

      1. It isn’t really a case of what different people call’ justified’ traffic volume levels, more about the reality of current projects that are being constructed and or funded and then what could / should be ‘strategically’ done based on past (current) choices – right or wrong.

        In the north, the Expressway will be going to Wellsford – right or wrong and past Cambridge. I said Wellsford to Tauranga and I think most people would agree with that strategically – linking BOP, Waikato and Auckland.

        In the centre, the Expressway will be going past Levin – right or wrong and there will be an Expressway level connection, Ashurst to Woodville to bypass the Manawatu Gorge. Again I think most people would see the strategic value in linking the Southern Hawke’s Bay / Wairarapa, a city of 100k, Palmerston North, and Wellington / Kapiti.

        In the south, the Expressway can be modified accordingly and be deemed the ‘3rd project.’ Get the north and central Expressways consented and funded and then look at what is left. If that means Amberley to Ashburton, do it, as it should be a fairly cheap roading per / km cost. If it means no northern extension (Woodend) and a southern reduction to Rakaia, do that.

        The purpose of my comment was that looking at 800km of Expressway is not realistic and that we can all grandstand and say how stupid that is, it won’t happen. But, 250-300km of Expressway linking BOP-Waikato-Auckland, Wellington-Manawatu and the Southern East Coast North Island and the majority of populated Canterbury are far more reasonable and strategic and I’d like to see the numbers for it. (750mn per year for 20 years?)

        1. Your comment doesn’t make much sense to me.

          What else could we do with the money, given climate change?

          I like to read Matt’s analysis and I don’t think the word grandstanding is at all fair.

        2. @J_Keenan, the trouble with making an argument about strategic links is that the argument is pretty rubbery and could be stretched to cover all sorts of things. I’d rather the decisions about spending were based on traffic volumes and costs. Most people would agree there is little point spending billions on big stretches of new expressway if the existing road, perhaps with some extra passing lanes, can handle the traffic. And if the traffic volumes aren’t there, I’d rather the money was saved for hospitals or mitigating climate change or things like that.

          Matt’s graphs only covered SH1 and SH2. On those roads it looks like that there might only be some short stretches that have high enough traffic volumes that the economics for expressways could stack up.

          But I might look up the volumes on the Tauranga and Palmerston North links at some point. Last I heard the truckies weren’t sure which route between Auckland and Tauranga would be fastest and the patterns might change once the full Waikato Expressway is open.

          I’m not too familiar with Canterbury roads, but while volumes get up in the vicinity of Ashburton, they are still pretty low between Ashburton and Christchurch.

          As far as I know Warkworth to Wellsford isn’t approved. On the face of it the Otaki-Levin choice doesn’t look like a good one. It isn’t planned yet for years and there is still time to reverse the decision.

  19. @Mum-of-two I said this:
    “The purpose of my comment was that looking at 800km of Expressway is not realistic and that we can all grandstand and say how stupid that is, it won’t happen.” … and this:
    “Generally, I think Matt’s posts here are very reasonable but this seems a little opportunistic to take Joyce’s (op-ed?) piece and believe it is what he realistically wants and or thinks could be achieved.”

    Those comments don’t add up with what you are implying I said about Matt and this post.

    @Sherwood, some good chat. I’m not up to play on the exact stages for these projects either. If they don’t go Expressway to Wellsford then good, and if they just bypass Levin and don’t extend the Expressway then also good.
    But I’m assuming that they’re happening (in my comment) and by looking at Matt’s green highlighted roads I’m probably being pretty liberal with my Expressway km extension estimates (overestimating).

    I don’t believe that no Expressway extensions over the next 20-30 years is useful, nor do I think this 800km idea is either. I’m not ideological.
    I’m just thinking there is a sweet spot in the middle and I think Matt’s post would have been more useful looking at something more realistic.
    I agree with you, strategic thinking can be difficult and murky. Self-perpetuating even.

    1. I had a look at the traffic volumes on SH29 over the Kaimai ranges. I think you’d need to see three-quarters or so of the traffic going through the Karangahake Gorge on SH2 transferring south to SH29 before the traffic there got over 20,000 vehicles per day. Which I don’t think is realistic. So I don’t think SH 29 would need to be an expressway any time soon.

      You can see from a map how the regional traffic might get funnelled into the Manawatu Gorge Road and make the volumes there high. But on the Palmerston North side of the ranges there are so many roads I doubt any of them would have particularly high volumes.

      So, maybe bar some short sections here and there, I think the expressway network is mostly done.

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