Last week in the lead up to the Council’s Emergency budget debate we learnt the government had agreed to nearly $200 million of funding from their ‘shovel ready’ project fund in response to COVID-19. Of this, $98 million was for projects in the council’s budget, and there was another $98 million for other projects not in the budget. In both cases there was no information as to what projects the money would be going to but that changed on Saturday with the government finally announcing what projects were being funded.
The $98 million towards the council projects is the least interesting aspect of the announcement. This is going to be used for two projects already under construction and the funding really just enables council finances to be freed up for other things. The two projects are the Puhinui Interchange and Stage One of the Ferry Basin Redevelopment.
It’s the other two projects that are more interesting. These are:
Northwest Bus improvements
Auckland Transport is to be given $50 million from the infrastructure fund and is able to get another $50 million from Waka Kotahi to put in place the first stages of a rapid transit route to the Northwest.
The Northwestern Bus Improvements involves a range of short-term works which includes new bus interchanges at Te Atatū Rd, Lincoln Rd and Westgate, local bus stop improvements, and bus priority at motorway interchanges and along motorway shoulders.
They also said:
The Northwestern Bus Improvements could mean up to 35 minutes saved on a bus trip from Westgate into the city.
This is the staged plan AT came up with that we highlighted back in January.
As highlighted above, stage 1 is to build a few busway stations and add to the existing bus shoulders/priority along the route. It was expected to cost $20-40 million but understand more detailed work has now been done which has increased that a bit.
In many ways this is the same approach that was taken with the Northern Busway which started with just the Albany and Constellation stations and buses running on motorway shoulders and then shifting to the dedicated busway once it was built (and soon extended)
This would also enable AT to rework the bus network out west to feed the proposed bus stations. In my post about Auckland’s busiest bus routes I grouped all the services that use the NW motorway, which came out as the 13th busiest route. With these changes it would quickly move up the list.
However, the press release also talks about a potential station at Lincoln Rd as well as local bus stops and so combined with the larger $100m budget it seems we could effectively be doing step 1.5. This would make the improvements even more beneficial and help any local bus changes above work better.
It’s good to finally see rapid transit progressing on the Northwest. It is expected that a staged busway such as this would increase the throughput from all modes of the NW motorway at Waterview from 11,000 per hour to 16,000 per hour. So basically a 50% increase in capacity for just two lanes. It’s crazy that it was never included in the widening that’s only just been completed.
We should also be taking approach to get the Upper Harbour RTN implemented.
Te Whau Pathway
The other project announced was $37 million towards the Te Whau pathway – the planned path that will meander along the western side of the Whau River and when finished will link both harbours with a 15km path that links up 33 reserves, esplanade reserves, sports parks and roads.
It’s not the full pathway that’s being funded though, but it will be a decent chunk of it.
“The Te Whau Pathway will be extended through New Lynn, from Olympic Park to Ken Maunder Park, and through Te Atatū South, from Laurieston Park to the North Western Cycleway. This will give these communities an easy and safe way to get around.
These two sections are highlighted in purple below. I imagine the Northern one could be quite popular for getting locals to the NW cycleway while the Southern one will link into the currently under construction New Lynn to Avondale path.
It was also announced that this project is part of a wider $220 million nationwide cycleways package – more details of which will be announced later but presumably will be outside of Auckland.
Both projects still need design and consenting work but are expected to start construction next year.