Yesterday Auckland Transport removed a section of temporary cycleway on Tamaki Dr, despite only days earlier quoting a 91% increase in the number of bikes on their counters.
In a response to Waitemata Local Board member Graeme Gunthorp they said they removed it because of an increase in trucks and safety concerns and as such, cyclists would need to once again share the narrow shared path with pedestrians.
Hi Graeme, the majority of the pop up space of Tamaki Drive is not being removed. We have removed a the section between The Strand & Solent Street, in light of the safety concerns raised with the increase in truck activity. Additional signage will be placed on the shared path.
— Auckland Transport (@AklTransport) May 4, 2020
The issue seems to be that trucks accessing the port are used to racing down the rise from the Strand and sweeping through the slip lane at Solent St. There is currently no zebra or even light controlled crossing of that slip lane so trucks can travel at speed through here.
AT rolled out the temporary cycleways pretty quickly and I’m happy to accept this section may have had some flaws. But if an increase in trucks, presumably treating the intersection as they always have, is causing a safety issue, AT should have redesigned their temporary installation, not removed it all together.
As you can see with the video below, even without signs on the shared path it is already too narrow and with them is basically single file in places while there are six lanes on the road next to it.
The whole thing really makes me question AT’s priorities and their commitment to vision zero – which they themselves state people make mistakes so “it’s the responsibility of those who design and operate the transport infrastructure to provide a safe system“. It also increases the chance we’ll see more sections of Tamaki Dr and other temporary installations chipped away at fairly quickly. That would likely leave the Queen St changes as the only ones we’ll see any lasting change for and that would represent a massive wasted opportunity.
The issue of priorities was also highlighted yesterday as at about the same time as AT confirmed the section of Tamaki Dr had been removed, they announced they would build the Matakana Link Road as a four-lane road because the community want it. Granted, the decisions on Tamaki Dr and Matakana Link Rd come from two different parts of AT and are unrelated to each other but it certainly doesn’t help the impression that they are far more responsive to calls for more car capacity and not responsive enough to issues such modeshift, climate change and safety.
The project in itself isn’t bad as it gets cars heading to Matakana and nearby beach areas out of the notorious Hill St intersection but it does reinforce the notion that the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway is actually more about serving that traffic than it is about improving connections to Northland.
Matakana Link Road is being future proofed with the capacity to allow for four traffic lanes along the full length of the road.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says the extra lanes are something the Warkworth community has been asking for.
“Auckland Transport (AT) has developed a plan that will allow all four lanes of the Matakana Link Road to be built within in the existing $62 million budget,” he says.
“Building four lanes from the outset will ensure that the new road can accommodate growth in the Warkworth area, which is expected to see a population increase of 20,000 over the next 30 years.”
Matakana Link Road is a 1.35km link between State Highway One and Matakana Road. This route will provide an alternative around the frequently congested Hill Street intersection for traffic heading to Leigh, Omaha, Sandspit and Snells Beach.
Rodney ward Councillor Greg Sayers says the news is a “double win” for the local area.
“I am extremely pleased that the four lane option has finally made it across the line. When completed – this new road also creates an alternative traffic route, relieving pressure on the Hill Street intersection allowing bulldozers to finally go in and build a permanent fix with minimal disruption to everyone.”
AT’s Executive General Manager of Integrated Networks, Mark Lambert, says AT is looking to have the road built in time for the opening of Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency’s Pūhoi to Warkworth project.
“Preparatory works started last week – prior to the main construction works – and involve lizard trapping and relocation, tree felling and service relocations on Matakana Road.”
The project will employ up to 120 staff over the construction period and the work will include provision for safe walking and bike riding. AT is also building a new bridge which will involve the removal of vegetation and some replanting.
AT will ensure that any wildlife in the area is relocated safely.
That AT have done this without increasing the budget is somewhat positive but I am concerned as the press release also mentions there will be a shared path alongside the road when the previously agreed plans had separated walking and cycling facilities – the previously announced cross-section is below . More road lanes at the expense of proper walking and cycling facilities is not a great outcome. Furthermore, ATs modelling suggests the traffic capacity of a four-lane road is not needed for 20-30 years. Building that capacity now risk encouraging more traffic sooner and also that traffic driving faster, especially as there are currently no intersections planned on the road.
I also still don’t understand how a four-lane, 50km/h road is going to cost more per kilometre than the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway, a project that includes vast amounts of earthworks and viaduct structures.
Finally, while it doesn’t change any of the comments above, it’s worth pointing out that while Warkworth could grow by 20k people over the coming decades, most of that growth is south and west of Warkworth, away from this project.