Auckland’s streets are paved with gold. Over the coming decade, several billion dollars will be earmarked for regular road renewals, rolling out 300km or so of fresh surface per year.

You can’t begrudge this expenditure – nobody loves a pot hole, and everyone deserves a smoother ride! In fact, road renewals may be the city’s most geographically equitable transport investment, in that they (eventually) get around to pretty much every street in town. So we all get a share, and we all pay for it via a combination of rates and road user charges.

But are we getting our money’s worth?

It’s a timely question, because rapidly decarbonising the transport network is one of Auckland’s biggest challenges in the next few years. The transport budget needs to reflect this urgent goal by giving more people more access to low-cost, low-carbon ways to get around. And walking and cycling in particular are woefully overdue for fair treatment.

So why not make sure that when our roads are repaved, they’re good as gold and not just same-old?

Artist’s impression of the road renewals budget being prepared for the coming decade. (Also, a still from a video from an old news story about a Swiss bank vault for sale, via BoingBoing)

Looking Anew at Renewals

Leveraging road renewals for better outcomes isn’t a new idea. As Heidi wrote two years ago this month:

To meet our children’s needs:

  • ‘road improvements’ will need to be actual improvements. Improvements for safety, for access, for the climate and the environment. Those activity classes will need to cover busways and cyclelanes, wider footpaths and fewer traffic lanes, pedestrian crossings and good amenity near bus stops.
  • ‘road maintenance’ will have to move away from ‘like for like’ type contracts towards maintenance that refits the road for the needs of the day – including multiple modes, just as maintenance on a house is often a modernising process, too.

And as Matt wrote at the time of the Emergency Budget last June:

Renewals are Auckland Transport’s single largest CAPEX budget item, at about $162 million for the year. They also represent one of the biggest opportunities to easily and cheaply roll out safety and cycling improvements and there are often hundreds of crossovers between these programmes.

For example if rebuilding/resealing a road, AT could paint back the road differently such as with narrower lanes to encourage slower and safer speeds as well as creating space for cycle lanes.

But currently Auckland Transport currently have no way to take advantage of those opportunities, and as such roads are renewed on a ‘like for like’ basis.

At Auckland Transport’s current rates, it will probably take more than a century to roll out out much needed safety and cycling improvements, and so making better use of renewals could have a significant impact on this.

In a recent post on  a climate-ready RLTP (no litigation required), Heidi reiterated:

All road renewals should be focused on adding safe space for cycling, on making walking safer and easier, and on giving buses priority over general traffic. The citywide and ongoing maintenance and renewals plans offer a massive untapped opportunity for radical modeshift through bold and steady change. Specifically, the ”Level Of Service” concept needs to be replaced with clear goals for traffic reduction and improved Healthy Streets indicators.

It’s not just advocates spotting the massive untapped opportunity presented by renewals: check out Todd Niall’s recent article about the need for faster, not just bigger, transport projects:

“Renewals” is where the big pot of money is, and it funds work such as the lengthy, disruptive and costly “renewing” of Henderson’s suburban boulevard, Universal Drive by early 2020. 

What emerged was new footpath and kerbing and a re-sealed road, exactly as it had been – but without provision of bus lanes or cycleways which could have been accommodated within its generous width.

If the supertanker can’t change course rapidly enough, then the answer is not to be resigned to the outmoded inflexibility of the system, but to launch the lifeboats. The release shortly of the revised 10-year Regional Land Transport Plan might reveal that “captain’s call” from the bridge.

Simply put, “launching the lifeboats” means every time you renew a road, you make it better for walking, biking and public transport. What’s not to like?

“Like for like” is what’s not to like

The fish-hook, which you may have spotted in all the quotes above, is that renewals are currently all about “upgrading of roads in their current form,” aka “like for like.” The road is dug up and then put back the way it was.

The other paradox is that if your road isn’t super busy with cars, you may get “worse-than-like”. A street needs 10,000+ vehicles a day to earn a smooth asphalt finish. This means low-traffic streets and cul-de-sacs get a rougher, cheaper chipseal treatment. This makes the budget go further, but makes quiet streets louder, and less attractive and useful for people on bikes, scooters, roller-skates, etc. For a classic case of this policy in action, see Sutherland St: a critical link on the NW cycleway, once smooth, now crunchy.

Of course, even “like for like” is an illusion, because everything else about a street is constantly changing – not least, the current and future needs of all the people who use it. Faithfully replicating an old street layout every decade or so while the planet keeps on heating up feels like some sort of nightmare automation situation. Not even Wall*E would stand for that.

And doing “like for like” on a road that’s been dangerous for decades is a bit like repainting your house with lead paint, or reinstalling windows that aren’t safety glass. If you can do better, you should do better. For quality of life, and for elementary health and safety. We take that approach in our workplaces, and our homes. So why not in our streets?

Again, you wouldn’t be alone in asking this question…

Other cities have faced this conundrum, and have come up with smart policy approaches that add value by building betterment into the picture. The City of Vancouver’s Complete Streets ordinance, or Cambridge MA’s mandate for protected cycleways.

We can do the same.

Gimme one good reason…

With ~300km of fresh street to work with every financial year, you can tick all sorts of boxes by building back better:

  • Climate action, by creating space for low-carbon travel
  • Safer streets, by tightening corners and raising crossings including at side streets
  • Mode shift encouragement, by giving people streets that actively enable biking and other options
  • Equity, by unshackling people from having to own cars or use them for every journey
  • Accessibility, including for anyone who uses wheeled devices (wheelchairs, bikes, prams, scooters, mobility scooters), and for the freedom and independence of our most vulnerable, youngest and oldest citizens.
  • Resilience, both mental and physical, as spelt out in this excellent recent research into transport and mental health in Aotearoa.
  • Greenery, especially because as things heat up, we’re going to need a lot more street trees.
  • Healthy Streets principles of all kinds.
BEFORE: An example of a street upgrade achieved via road renewal: Davies Lane in New Plymouth (shown here in a 2009 Streetview) leads to a primary school… but was unwelcoming and indistinguishable from the general roadscape.
AFTER: By 2015, the footpath has been widened, and the sweeping mouth of the street tightened up, with an engaging gateway treatment to remind passersby this is a school route.

And even if all of the above strike you as “just” nice-to-haves… can we talk about numbers and logic?

  • Dig once. Why not coordinate service improvements for maximum efficiency? As anyone will tell you who’s ever written a letter to the editor upon seeing their street dug up for the third time in a year…
  • Bang for buck. The bottom line: this is about squeezing as much value from each dollar as we can, because in an Emergency Budget followed by a Recovery Budget, clearly every dollar must work two or three times as hard as ever before.
  • The clock is ticking. Time is money, and every month of delay now just increases future costs, not to mention the climate burden on our children. Or to put it more cheerfully: every quick action we can take now will save us time and money down the line.

Oh, and how about: it’s in the plan? For example:

  • AT’s own Transport Design Manual spells out that you need protected cycle space where traffic volumes and speeds are above a certain level.
  • AT’s own Parking Strategy requires removing on-street parking if it makes a route dangerous for people cycling.
  • All kinds of existing policies and plans, from the Government Policy Statement on Land Transport, to the Auckland Cycling Network, to every Local Board’s Connections or Greenways plan, envision a safe bike network which can only be built one link at a time. So why waste a single opportunity to make progress?

Moreover, the 2018 Safety Review that put AT on a path towards Vision Zero noted AT was missing two “critical bigger direct opportunities” to improve safety across the network:

leveraging the annual AT major road Capex programme and the annual AT maintenance programme to deliver important low marginal cost road network safety improvement over time and actively moving to manage free operating speeds which are in general terms too high for appropriately safe road network operation including for underlying safety of cyclists and pedestrians.

Among the safety report’s recommendations, for action in 2018:

  • Build low-cost safety into Maintenance
  • Agree that infrastructure maintenance and renewals projects are to be required to include lower cost safety treatments as much as possible (for some five to 10% of overall programme cost).
  • Optimise maintenance treatment selection to give more weight to safety outcomes.
  • Review the maintenance contracts framework to elevate safety as one of four key performance outcomes.
  • Embed safety outcomes in maintenance staff Performance Development Plans.

That’s pretty clear.

BEFORE: Another simple road renewal project that made things better along the way (New Plymouth again). Before, the side street was maximised for cars turning in and out…
AFTER: The turning radius is tighter, the footpath wider, and rain gardens have been added. There’s also a new sign explaining it’s a residential street. (Note: this project dates from 2015; today you’d probably raise the side street crossing and even consider one-waying the entrance to further discourage rat-running.

So, is our transport agency on the case?

In January 2021, Heidi received the following email from Auckland Transport:

Kia ora Heidi

Thank you for your email requesting information on how improvements for the safety of people cycling and walking have been incorporated into the new maintenance and renewals contracts.

Our current Road Corridor Maintenance and Renewals contracts are up for renewal. A tender is currently in the market for a new tranche of contracts in the Central and Southern area to commence on 1 July 2021 with the Northern and West tranche of contracts to follow on 1 July 2022.

New contracts provide us with the opportunity to better align with Auckland Transport’s (AT) current objectives and policies of which the safety of people using the network for cycling and walking is of paramount importance.

The new contracts address this in the following ways:

  • Proactive identification and response programme for faults and potential hazards on the network
  • Realisation of safety improvement in our renewals and maintenance programme to support Vision Zero. This involves our suppliers working proactively with AT to understand existing safety issues. It also includes applying network stewardship and knowledge to integrate safety improvements with planned maintenance and renewals work.
  • Safety and accessibility to the network is seen as a key contract outcome area. This will account for 20% of their overall contract performance score.
  • A reward and abatement mechanism to ensure consistent contract management practices. Failure to perform in a key contract outcome area, such as Health and Safety, would result in a penalty against the overall contractors monthly score.

This is a collaborative framework aimed at fostering ‘best for network’ behaviours between AT, its suppliers and key subcontractors. The framework is designed to ensure we are nimble enough to respond to the changing needs of the network while ensuring the safety of our customers and users are at the forefront of every decision we make.

This suggests we should start to see integrated improvements from the middle of this year across Central and South Auckland. If you’re on a street that’s up for repaving, keep an eye out for safety fixes.

Going for gold

But… what about protected cycle lanes? What about bus lanes? What about moving beyond tweaks to transformation? 

The new focus on safety is critically important… but these improved contracts will be coming into place three and half years after the Safety Review recommended them. Four and a half years, for some areas.

And in that time, the whole transport landscape has changed.

The Climate Change Commission’s proposed carbon budgets and council’s own Climate Action Plan mean long term plans that seemed pretty good just a few short years ago are suddenly looking woefully unambitious or even downright irresponsible.

More than ever before, we need to squeeze climate action out of existing projects and budgets. Time to get a taskforce, give ‘em a tight timeframe, and pull all the levers at once:

  • Calls to action from the relevant ministers, from Council, and from the public. With the request coming from all directions, it’ll be harder to ignore.
  • A council ordinance that specifies and mandates “betterment”, rather than like-for-like.
  • An investment policy at the national scale – this is not just about Auckland – that specifically requires “betterment” when maintenance occurs. (The One Network framework should come in handy here.)
  • Updated city Asset Management Plans that reflect betterment as a requirement.
  • Great public comms from councils and transport agencies about how and why this will be happening. “Dig once”, “build back better”, “more bang for your buck” – this won’t be a hard sell, especially in the current climate.
  • Boards of directors that get what’s happening and why, and expects regular accounts of progress.
  • Betterment design teams to take a look at project drawings and improve them with value-added components. You’ll definitely want up-to-date expertise in cycling and pedestrian safety in these teams.
  • Crucially, a design toolkit of easy fixes that can be achieved within the existing road reserve – including templates for common layouts and frequent issues. Textbook examples to speed up the process.
  • A good contract writer to make it clear to contractors what’s now required. This would include standard items for upgrades during maintenance (tighten up corners, raise all crossings), and would be subject to change whenever a new national directive is given (so you didn’t have to wait e.g. ten years for each contract to roll over.)
Goals: Progress towards resurfacing the roads of Auckland. From the Monthly Indicators report to the AT Board, February 2021.
Progress towards building a cycleway network for Auckland, from the Monthly Indicators report to the AT Board, February 2021. One of these things is not like the other. But could be.

Time to take the lead

We’re an inventive people. And as a C40 leadership city, Auckland is explicitly required to come up with creative and exemplary new ideas. Luckily, our councillors are increasingly alert to the need to act fast and get smart.

ATAP is pretty fresh. But I think even now, what we now know today, compared to a year ago, even just one year ago, on ATAP, is vastly different. If we were doing ATAP today we’d be doing it even with more transit focus and more PT focus and more active focus… I think we need to be more dynamic with our planning documents.

– Chris Darby, speaking at the Auckland Climate Conference on 18 March 2019

Dynamic is a great word. Responsive is another. For example, the minute e-bikes and e-scooters arrived on the scene, all the old assumptions about who travels where and how and over what distances should have gone straight in the bin.

Likewise, when last year’s lockdown unexpectedly revealed enormous potential for local walking and cycling and an enthusiasm for life in low-traffic neighbourhoods, we should have gotten cracking on clever circulation plans to reflect that local reclamation of space, to filter out rat-running, improve local access, and give children more freedom.

Ditto for all the speedy tactical transformations taking place right now in other cities just like Auckland, at impressive pace. We don’t have to just gaze enviously on. We can learn fast, join the movement, and even aspire to help lead it.

Let’s start by magicking mundane road renewals into a wellspring for safer, greener streets: less tarmack-y, more Tāmaki.

Ōtepoti/Dunedin, showing the way. BEFORE: The intersection of Elm Row and Brown St, seen in this 2017 Streetview, is your typically hostile sea of tarmac.
DURING: It’s 2018, and a new, tightened up road layout is being marked out and trialled. Note how the crossing distance for pedestrians has shrunk considerably.
AFTER: It’s 2019, and the hardscape version is in place. Planted bump-outs on the corners, and pedestrian refugees on wide Brown St make life easier for pedestrians, while the central roundabout creates a slower-speed intersection, safer for everyone.
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  1. Thanks Jolisa! The very same was going through my mind as I traversed another mindless renewal in progress, on the way home last night at West Coast Road at Kelston shops, a significant local connection in the area. I ride the bike on the path because it’s so dangerous around Gt North/WCR, yet the obvious opportunity to make easy, cheap improvements is being missed.

    Those two graphs are damning – we can manage around 50km a month of renewals, but not even 1km of cycle paths.

    “Don’t tell me what your priorities are, show me where you spend your money, and I’ll tell you what they are” – James Frick

    Vision Zero clearly means very little now.

    1. I guess the difference is that you don’t need to consult to do a renewal. AT really need to have blanket policies and designs (e.g. this is what the entrance to any residential road carrying less than 3k a day will look like) and then apply them without exception or consultation upon renewal. Instead it feels like every road is a new opportunity for them to design something new (and slow and expensive).

  2. Those pictures are so inspiring. Thanks. Isn’t this phrase from the safety review great: “the safety report’s recommendations, for action in 2018”

    So many things were committed to “in full and without question” – and plenty not even in the safety team’s sphere of influence. This is about AT decision-making.

    To wait 3.5 years for the first maintenance contracts to be renewed before making changes is not what AT committed to. Contracts can be renegotiated when new commitments are made. Indeed they must be. That’s what commitment means.

    A big part of this consultation for the Long Term Plan needs to be about Council governance of AT.

    1. And, even if we had 3.5 years to spare 3.5 years ago (we didn’t, really), we sure don’t have the same 3.5 years now. In climate terms, the longer it takes to get started, the longer it will take, and every choice is magnified.

      Related, I have increasingly wondered how difficult it really is to turn a supertanker around. Turns out: “You don’t have to apply that much pressure at all to turn a supertanker. But you do have to know where to apply it.”

  3. Its always so disappointing when AT dig up a street near you. You go through all the pain of the road works and think you are going to get something decent in return and then afterwards it looks exactly the same (normally with a whole lot of stones making it impossible to ride anywhere).
    I can’t think of many industries where this is the case. Imagine renting a house and the landlord replacing the kitchen with a like for like 1960’s style one every decade.

    1. Great analogy – and increasingly, more like reinstalling a wood cooking stove in the kitchen fireplace, despite everything we know about clean air standards and asthma and fire risk and so on.

    2. Our street was full of gravel for almost an entire year after it was resurfaced.

      That is what you get for pissing away money on an 8m or 10m wide roadway when you only need 6m.

      1. Yes, my experience of the chipseal treatment is that (perhaps because of low traffic numbers), it doesn’t get evenly flattened over time… leaving a continuous longitudinal hump and loose gravel right in the bike travel zone at the edge of the street.

        1. Absolutely! My street was smooth rolled tarmac, it was in moderately worn condition when resealed mid last year.

          For some reason it is now coarse chip seal, there are still thrones being thrown around 8 months later, chipping car paint and making for a rough ride on my bike. Maybe a “covid budget cut”…

  4. “Like for like” gives the impression that there is minimal engineering involvement in the process. That the plans for that bit of road from 30 years ago are dusted off and used again. But this isn’t true at all.

    Even a simple asphalt resurfacing operation (“mill and fill”) will be working to a pavement design (by a pavement engineer). Shape correction, geometric design or road marking changes may also be required (involving still more engineers).

    1. This! You mean we’re literally paying someone to “redesign” the street to be exactly the same as it was?

    2. On the other hand a lot of chipseals are done without any plans at all. Often towards the end of the financial year when the Road Controlling Authority realise they haven’t spent their budget and if they don’t spend the lot they will be cut back in the next financial year. There is no design, just a bunch of yellow and white tags on the existing markings to show where to put them back.

      1. Well best practice is for a proper seal design to be done. The binder type and application rate needs to be carefully calibrated to what’s already there. The chip size needs to be compatible with the old chip so that it locks in properly.

        But you’re right, all too often the RCA will do some thoughtless birthday reseals. This inevitably leads to either excess chip that falls off or excess binder that flushes (or both!). Pisses everyone off and gives chipseal a bad rep.

        1. Wait, are you saying that all that gravel is supposed to stick?

          In my street it looked like they just put on a layer of gravel and let’s see how much of it will stick.

          Apart from the loose gravel the other thing that pisses people off is how loud it is.

  5. Waitemata Local Board passed a resolution in October 2020 on this very subject!

    “That the Waitematā Local Board request Auckland Transport to investigate and report to the Board on:
    – options for reallocating resources from road resurfacing into footpath
    – options for using the renewals programme to create low traffic / slow
    speed neighbourhoods.” (item 15)

    1. Thank you, Graeme – that’s exactly the kind of thinking and action we’re going to need. Excellent to see WLB leading the way. Keep us posted on any responses?

  6. While I think this is a great idea, the hurdle to get over from an asset management perspective is that road infrastructure has varying design lives. Here’s some ballpark estimates:

    1-5 years – Road marking
    4-8 years – Asphalt at busy intersections
    5-15 years – Asphalt and chipseal on roads away from intersections
    20-30 years – Kerb and channel
    40-60 years – Stormwater pipes (including those draining the kerb and channel)

    Road marking changes can deliver some quick wins like less on-street parking, more cycle lanes and bus lanes. But they can’t provide the degree of road space reallocation needed to improve active mode outcomes in Auckland. To do that requires building wider footpaths and more protected cycle lanes, which requires shifting kerblines. That gets expensive fast. It won’t fit in the renewals budget because kerb and channel and associated stormwater pipes weren’t budgeted to be renewed for decades.

    There are some ways of mitigating this. Like doing the sort of tactical urbanism trials shown in that Dunedin example. On straight bits of arterial road those plastic or concrete dividers that get bolted on to the existing asphalt to create a protected cycle lane could be a good option.

    1. Kerb-moving requires taking space from pedestrians or verges. We can’t do that, for all sorts of reasons including needing better walking amenity and better green infrastructure. Or it requires property purchase, which is too costly and slow for the rapid transformation required.

      Usually all that’s required is losing the flush medians and/or parking or excess traffic lanes, on the arterials. (And making LTN’s from the local roads.)

      Where cycling still doesn’t fit between kerblines, one way systems for traffic might be needed. Where bus priority is needed but there’s no space for bus lanes, the traffic reduction levers need to be used to good measure. Including bus bollards.

      1. No Heidi I want to move kerbs to give MORE space to pedestrians and verges, I’m just pointing out that it’s expensive/difficult.

        Narrowing the entrances to side streets (as shown in the New Plymouth examples) makes it easier for pedestrians to cross the road and provides more space for street planting. But that involves moving the kerblines out and replumbing the stormwater infrastructure to cope. In older parts of Auckland (Ponsonby, St Marys Bay etc.) this is even more expensive because the existing stormwater infrastructure is limited or non-existant.

        The standard way of building new protected cycle lanes (such as on K Rd and Tamaki Dr) is to essentially build new kerblines between the general traffic and the cyclelane. This is the highest quality, longest lasting solution but it’s slow and expensive.

        1. +1 This is good work which we should plug away on.

          Meanwhile we need to treat the whole city. I’m particularly concerned about what the census analysis calls the ‘outer area’ and the increases in vkt, and reduction in cycling there. Clearly our development strategy needs overhaul, but I think the sheer number of km of arterial roads that need treatment mean we need to do it tactically once then slowly make permanent.

    2. Good points – hence the need for a toolkit that shows what’s possible within the road reserve, and suggests some textbook options.

      And you’re right about the bolt-on dividers for bike lanes. The header image shows St Luke’s Road, where some “interim” protection to the existing painted lanes has been in place for coming up four years. During that time ridership has risen dramatically along here – yes, it’s linked to the busy NW cycleway at one end, but it peters out into nothing at the other end. It shows that every little bit of safe network helps… by making the next section a logical thing to do, and so on and so on.

    3. Doing a ‘tactical urbanism’ approach to cycleway for example in Portage Road New Lynn has meant that actually no-one trusts them enough to actually use them as cycleways. But it was cheap.

      Whereas the dedicated cycleway being built from New Lynn (Portage Road) to Avondale (Avondale station) involves multiple scope changes and about $50m for 4kms of shared path.

      I would be useful if some of the post writers here actually spent time in a tier 1 civil contractor and figured that this stuff really is as hard as it looks.

      1. “About $50m for 4 kms of shared path” is where some reflection is required, Ad.

        Reallocating road lanes on the arterial would’ve been much cheaper. Sure, there are some good links being provided by the new path, but we’ve a whole city to fix. We have to do stuff at scale now.

        Where our money should actually be being spent is on the intersections connecting all these tactical cycleways up.

        Other cities are having success with tactical cycleways. If we’re not, we’re doing it wrong.

        1. Heidi you don’t sound like you have any experience either designing or constructing roads or cycleways or footpaths. What you are looking for is a kind of optioneering discussion. Larger volume urban cycleways need dedicated lanes – well away from driveway intersections.

          The big cycleway wins in Auckland in the last decade have been and are on dedicated corridors like Orakei, Petone, SH16, Grafton Gully, Quay Street, and Mt Roskill. Same with Dunedin’s Port Chalmers and Portobello routes: massive projects for dedicated cycleways. That’s where your high volume cycling modal shifts are.

          The other bit about the word ‘tactical’ that you forget is neighbours. Everyone wants a cycleway, unless you’re a shop or a neighbour. No one remembers how bad Grey Lynn ‘s resistance was, and the pushback in Howick.L et alone Wellington. It’s tactical because it needs techniques to mitigate really annoying a lot of people. Whole local elections have been lost on this. Even the redoubtable Barbara Cuthbert recognises that this aspect of AT’s work is phenomenally hard. II’m ure even GA could help there

        2. It is not a case of on-street lanes vs. off-street lanes. You must have both of them. Of course the big off-street paths look good because they collect a lot of cyclists, in the same way a motorway collects a lot of cars.

          If you only have those big paths, almost nobody will be able to get onto those paths. You need to be able to cycle on our streets, or your investment in these off-road paths will be wasted.

          That path on SH16 is used by, what? 1000 people per day? That is nothing in a city of this size.

        3. Cycleways without traffic conflicts are great.

          But we also need the other sort, as Roeland says. Basically, we have a cycling network already, it’s called the road network. We just need to make space on it for bikes in a way that’s safe. Through the middle of that network, can be some completely separated cycleways as well, that can be like cycling superhighways. But you have to be able to get to them safely.

          It’d be ideal to have a pipeline of construction funding for both sorts. You might be interested in these. The comments are interesting, too:

    4. On kerb and channel, can anyone explain why perfectly good kerbs are being replaced in Remuera (Lucerne Rd, Upland Rd)? I would rather this money was invested somewhere else (footpaths, cycleways, LTNs). Similarly resealing.
      Is this just done on a calendar basis? Does someone actually go and look to see if the work is necessary? Or is it like your WOF, you need to get it done by a certain date?
      It also seems that work in affluent suburbs takes priority.

    5. LB
      Isn’t this an issue though if AT just take a formulaic approach to renewals?
      e.g. “5-15 years – Asphalt and chipseal on roads away from intersections”

      Surely the rate of deterioration is going to be different for a road that has traffic flow of 2000 cars and buses a day, compared with a no exit street that might see 2000 cars per month. An answer that I had to a OIA request suggested that AT doesn’t bring any degree of finesse to bear.

      Yes pot holes aren’t helpful, but when resources are scarce shouldn’t renewal be happening, as required, rather than as budgeted. The “use it or lose it” approach needs to be relegated to antiquity.

      1. Sorry those are just rough estimates to show that different assets have different expected lifetimes, they shouldn’t be taken as gospel. I don’t know how AT decide what to renew, though I’d expect some level of service based approach.

    1. Yes! Reckon we need more Before-During-After sets of images, not just Before-After. (Binary systems are so old school.)

  7. In the photos from Elm Road/Brown Street in Dunedin where do the cyclist go. Do they have to go in the same lane as the car or is there a ramp up onto the footpath that we can’t see. The stop sign in the 2017 version is pretty definitive. The round about not so much. Turning right on a bike is pretty daunting in either design. I think I would be crossing the road before the intersection and riding on the footpath. In fact I see a lot of riders doing just that in similar circumstances.

    1. For context, the location is in a very steep part of town (can’t see the gradients either side of this site; that’s why the sightlines were a nightmare before), so there’s not much cycling for starters. But the new roundabout is tight enough that you can comfortably take the lane on your bike (I suppose marking a few approach sharrows could help too)

  8. It would be more realistic if you did a post on why these things are hard, and getting harder not easier. And have been hard for many years.

    Too many of these posts amount to Harry Potter spells.

    1. Oh, I would definitely read that post… especially if it were guest-written by someone inside the system. (Alohomora!)

    2. I would be very interested to read why things are like they are, and hear from the designers of these renewals why things are turning out like they do. Make the post anonymous, if no telling information was given then there would be no risk to their career.

      Some of the posts are exactly like you say. Hocus pocus from an outsiders perspective.

    3. If GA are interested I’d be happy to write about my experiences working as an engineer for one of the big construction contractors on various capital works and maintenance contracts (in Christchurch, Auckland and a few other places). How does one go about writing a guest post?

  9. Great post!
    AT needs real leadership to change the business as usual stuff that gives us the same old failing answers from bygone times.

  10. I’ve lived in my house for about 18 years.
    Maybe 4 years ago the road was resealed.
    About 18 months ago large sections were dug up to repair ruts and potholes.
    For about the last year the ruts have returned and been bad enough to make it feel like an earthquake when large trucks go past.
    Quality and longevity of work appears to be going down.

    1. Whereas on my street, the ruts over pipes and at intersections were investigated and repaired, subsoil drain was installed where needed, intersections were dug out and repaired, leaf mould was blasted off, then the whole was carefully chip sealed and now, a few weeks later the contractor came back and swept all the loose chips.

  11. The issue with the maintenance renewals (from AT’s letter) is that they seem to be relying on the tenderers/contractors to decide what safety improvements they would incorporate and how. From my contracting experience, typically AT gives 3-4 weeks for contractors to price, plan, describe, design, review, and submit a tender. The Construction Accord talks about allocating risk fairly – AT seems to be allocating a great deal of climate and safety improvements to a contractor who barely has time to price a basic scope of works.

    This seems like a disappointing non-commitment by them, and then they will blame the lack of delivery on their lowest-price low margin contractors. There is no leadership evident from them!

  12. Only partially related, but here in Wellington we have a multi-faceted crisis. Regular fountains from bursting water-pipes, sewage going where it definitely shouldn’t, various public buildings out of use awaiting expensive earthquake-strengthening, and a threatened major rates-rise.
    All too often, comments from the public blame spending on cycleways (and the like) as the reason money is short. Nobody pauses to question the much greater amount that goes into road-maintenance and road-improvements required to prop-up our car-dependency. This is what is really costing us.

    1. “public blame spending on cycleways”
      Its insane that this is the case.

      My theory is, people think that we didn’t used to have such big money issues, and the most visible thing that’s changed is that projects sometimes consider cycling and walking and, we do spend millions on these solutions. I think the public in general don’t really realize just how expensive much of these roading projects are. You can hear a number like 1.4 billion but that’s a difficult number to get your head around.

      That said there has been a massive inflation in the cost of civil works projects in the country and it’d be interesting to see a breakdown on why.

      1. Letter in the Dominion Post, Thursday March 11, 2021

        Cyclists need to pay

        I note with some concern the amount of money being spent New Zealand wide on cycleways. This includes the latest trial in Lower Hutt. Whilst the idea may have merit, who pays?
        When buying paint, for example, there is a surcharge added to the cost to pay for its disposal – user pays.
        The motorist pays a petrol tax towards road use, plus annual registration fees – user pays.
        Motorcyclists pay similar to motorists – user pays.
        When buying new motor vehicle tyres there is a surcharge for their eventual disposal – user pays.
        Cyclists appear to be getting off scot free at the expense of taxpayers in general.
        Why not add a surcharge to the costs of all cycles and their consumables to offset the exorbitant cost of these cycleways – user pays. It is only fair they contribute – they get all the benefits and none of the costs.
        And the motorist also loses out on parking spaces, again to cyclists’ benefit.
        Victor Ward, Lower Hutt

        1. The average moderately engaged adult should understand enough to contribute meaningfully to discussions about public investment in transport, environment and health. If the current media are not providing that, perhaps the government needs to take measures to restrict destructive advertising, as they did with cigarettes, and to provide information in an engaging way.

        2. Letters in the Dominion Post, Friday March 12, 2021

          Cyclists pay too

          It may interest Victor Ward to know (Letters, March 11) that cyclists pay for streets in the same way that he does – through rates – and that most people who ride bikes also own cars and therefore pay the tax and licencing fees that make up the remainder of street maintenance costs.
          Yet those on bikes take up a fraction of the space that he does, and contribute none of the noise, pollution, and physical threat to other road users that he does when in his car.
          They also subsidise Mr Ward’s “free parking” when he goes to the supermarket or mall. The true cost of that parking is embodied in the price of the goods he buys, yet the price is the same for all buyers.
          The better question, then, is why are car drivers not charged to reflect the real costs they impose on society?
          Luckily for Mr Ward, that question has already been asked and he may find it more difficult in future to freely drive wherever he likes.
          Reuben Ferguson, Brooklyn
          – – – – –

          Cycle safety

          Victor Ward says cyclists “get all the benefit and none of the costs” of new cycleways. He’s missing the point.
          Besides any cost/benefit analysis of road use, people on bikes deserve safe streets because we are humans. This is not about money. It’s about basic human decency.
          Patrick Morgan, Cycling Action Network

  13. We want residential and non-arterial streets to be 30km/h streets, no? But a lot of these streets are massively wide (no images this time since last time my post had a bunch and got deleted), so if you turn into them the only thing saying they’re not 50km/h is the speed signs and maybe a painted strip on the road. They still, in other words, feel like roads to hoon on.

    Now, compare that to the kinds of roads they put in at Paearata Rise or Auranga (and I assume other modern suburban developments). They’ve often got bicycle lanes but they’re all extremely narrow… claustrophobic, even. These are the exact same kind of roads to what you’ve got in Pahurehure/Rosehill but they look and feel completely different. Well, they’re not exactly the same. Paerata Rise is near a school but not two schools.

    We should be putting in protected bike lanes as a matter of course on all non arterial residential roads. They’re the easiest place to do it (in some cases the roads have such expansive verges you wouldn’t actually need to take up road space but the whole point is to use the protected bike lanes to reduce the road space to make the roads safer). Hell, I guess it’d be fine as a first step just to lay down a new kerb.

    We, and even this blog, seem trained to think of bike lanes as something you need on certain kinds of roads but I put it to you that they’re actually something we should see as being inherent to all (non motorway) roads in all settings… absent only due to automobility.

    1. “seem trained to think of bike lanes as something you need on certain kinds of roads”
      “seem trained to think of bike lanes as something you need on certain kinds of roads”

      Yes. That is easy to observe overseas. Quite often you’ll see that small residential streets do not have bike lanes. They don’t need it.

      You have a street grid that avoids through traffic on these streets, and you make them narrow (at most 5 m) so people will actually drive slowly. Add speed bumps to defend against idiots.

      The thing you don’t need on these streets is a separate carriageway for cars.

    2. I forget the number that is the limit before your comment gets swallowed by the machine, Whirlsler. I think it’s three.

  14. The last paragraph in “Going For Gold” I think is very misleading as it gives the impression that it is the contractor which makes the decisions over road design. The contractor simply does what it is told to do by the council, especially over the design and engineering aspects of any road works.

    1. Completely correct. Contractors (sometimes) have great ideas, but the nature of the contracting relationship is that there is neither the time nor a forum where the client wants to hear them. The client, and the consultants they pay for advice (often just telling them what they want to hear), must take responsibility for their spending.

  15. To simplify the requirements of road renewal, remove the ability for the work to be to ambient standards. Ambient standards are used to reduce/remove liability when replacing with like for like. If all road renewal is required to be completed to current standards, it will reduce the amount of road renewal as every section will require engineering to either confirm compliance or require changes. However it will bring roads to either current standards, or to an agreed percentage of current standards (this is analogous to requirements around structures and their performance during earthquakes).

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