Further progress on plans for an additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing are pleasing, but fundamental questions need to be resolved around the de-congestion benefits the project will deliver.
That’s the response of the Northern Infrastructure Forum (NIF), following today’s announcement by the Government of a preferred option for the next crossing of Te Waitemata.
NIF Chair Simon Bridges says the announcement would be well received by users of the transport network in Auckland and right across the country, who are desperate to see improvements to the resilience and efficiency of transport connections across Te Waitemata.
“There is no transport infrastructure project in the country with greater strategic significance, where the public is more engaged, or where the calls for action are louder or more widespread,” he says.
The Government had made the right call in opting for a solution that catered to all modes of transport (rather than a public transport-only crossing), and for a tunnelled rather than bridge-based solution for general traffic, he says.
“The tunnelled road crossing connects with the Northern Motorway a lot further north than the bridge options that had been looked at,” he says. “That’s really important when it comes to minimising disruption during construction, and maximising the separation between traffic using the new crossing and traffic using the existing bridge, thereby improving resilience.”
Mr Bridges says the key concern for the infrastructure community is over the de-congestion benefits that the new crossing will deliver.
“All the previous modelling shows a pretty underwhelming de-congestion benefit for general traffic, and congestion didn’t even feature in the criteria that the crossing options were assessed against,” he says.
“The next stage of analysis is going to have to include planning for widening the Northern Motorway between Northcote Road and Constellation Drive, and we’d like to see some really innovative thinking brought to the table.”
Mr Bridges says that a sub-standard de-congestion result would not be a good enough return on an investment likely to cost north of $40 billion, and would raise questions about whether decision-makers had been strategic enough in their approach.
The questions don’t just pertain to the road crossing, says Mr Bridges.
“The light rail crossing is a massive part of this, and we still haven’t seen any information to justify why this option was preferred over the others. As things move forward, we’re going to want to see a lot more data, particularly when it comes to things like likely demand patterns for public transport in the future, and future capacity constraints on the Northern Busway.”
About the NIF:
The NIF is a policy and advocacy organisation formed to help raise the standard of infrastructure planning and decision-making across the Upper North Island, and maximise the contribution that infrastructure can make to productivity and liveability. Its membership consists of:
• Auckland Business Chamber
• C & R Developments
• Civil Contractors New Zealand
• Employers and Manufacturers Association (Northern)
• National Road Carriers Association
• The NZ Automobile Association (Auckland District Council)
• Ports of Auckland Ltd
For more information, contact:
Chair, Northern Infrastructure Forum
M. 021 322769
Coordinator, Northern Infrastructure Forum
M. 027 8399309