A key milestone in the construction of the City Rail Link will occur in mid-2021 when the Wellesley St / Albert St intersection is reopened again, having been closed since March 2020. A few days later the Victoria St / Albert St intersection will be closed to enable construction and is expected to remain closed until mid-2023. City Rail Link also say the of the reopening
the exact timing of the reopening to be confirmed following coordination with Auckland Council’s Te Hā Noa Linear Park project. This timing will also coincide with the streetscape and urban realm improvements for the intersection.
This closure is one of the key drivers of the current plans to get cars out of Queen St as more of them will need to use the street while that intersection is closed.
As part of the change, Auckland Transport are currently consulting on some changes to Wellesley St in order to prioritise buses – consultation closes on Friday.
The Wellesley closure in March 2020, resulted in several bus routes being rerouted due to this work and many of these will now have to return to their original routes. The closure of the Victoria Street/Albert Street intersection will also mean moving bus routes that currently use Victoria Street.
Given the volume of buses to be re-routed and general traffic that will be re-directed away from Victoria Street, bus priority measures are essential to ensure people can still get into and around the city centre.
A map summarising the changes is below and the main change is adding bus lanes to Wellesley St which will really help improve reliability. For the section between Queen and Albert Streets AT are also proposing to remove general traffic entirely and say the road corridor will be narrowed . Also, there are a few issues with some of the roads on the map, though I think these are just a mistake and AT aren’t actually planning on recreating the central motorway junction a bit further north or shifting the area around Britomart further into the harbour.
What’s exciting is that these changes will be useful long after the CRL is finished and hopefully will help reduce the sightings of the Wellesley St Bus Sausage.
One key addition I’d like to see is the westbound lane extended as close as possible to the intersection with Victoria St and Halsey St as that section can be the source of significant delays, especially in the evening peak.
It would also useful if AT were to make it harder for drivers to use Federal and Elliot Streets which would really help them become more pedestrian friendly. As it stands they’re often used by drivers trying to rat run to avoid congestion elsewhere. One simple potential change, and that would fit in with the council’s goals around Access for Everyone, would be to remove right-turn access to Federal St.
Here are the plans for the Albert to Queen St section which highlights the footpath being widened is on the Northern side outside Smith & Caughey’s.
As it stands, the proposal goes some of the way to realising the vision for the street as articulated in ATs City East West Transport Study back in 2014 which suggested Wellesley should get bus lanes its entire length with the central section becoming bus only.
The strategic direction for Wellesley Street is to become the primary east-west public transport spine across the midtown area of the city centre, providing a high capacity and quality bus route while enhancing the capacity and quality of footpaths for pedestrians and to support adjacent land uses, especially in the core to either side of Queen Street.
It is expected that dedicated bus lanes will be provided along the full length of Wellesley Street, which will enable separate allocations for bus movement and stopping.
Within the central core full implementation of this vision will require the removal of general traffic between Albert and Kitchener Streets / Mayoral Drive and a reduction in carriageway width to facilitate increased provisions for pedestrians and place making.
Finally, this consultation is not about the (much needed) changes planned for Queen St which will see two bus only sections added to Queen St to help prevent through traffic, though hopefully we’ll hear more about that soon.