Newsletter #2 – 29 September 2016
Since the last newsletter a lot has happened. Unfortunately, none of it has happened within cooee of Hill Street… well, except what we’ve been up to…
WHILE YOU’VE BEEN WAITING…
Auckland Council’s Development Committee, Auckland Transport, and the NZTA have been strategizing about TFUG. No, that isn’t an expletive but an acronym for “Transport for Future Urban Growth.” When you see what they are planning, you will be using an array of expletives.
Attached is the memorandum from their 13 September meeting. Check out what is proposed for Warkworth (near the back of the memo.) In addition to the Southern Growth Cell, they’ve added even more future growth areas between the Tollway and the Western Collector “as a result of Council decisions on the Unitary Plan.”
Just a glimpse at the areas rezoned, two things are apparent. First, as there is no connection between south Warkworth and the Tollway, all that additional traffic will either use State Highway 1 south or north through Warkworth. By NZTA’s estimates, 49% of Tollway traffic will turn south towards Hill Street.
Secondly, there is no mention of any improvements to Hill Street. We have needed to revise our traffic projections for Hill Street and it isn’t looking pretty.
WHILE OTHERS WERE WAITING…
Talking about looking pretty, two of our team finished a meeting with a TV crew, had some time to kill so went to Hill Street. Bedazzled by the glare of 20+ people in high viz jackets at Kowhai Park, they thought all their Christmases had come at once. Even a surveyor’s theodolite looked promising.
While one held his nose at the public toilets, the other took a nosey at the ensemble of engineers. The surveyor was taking levels for some improvements to Kowhai Park. The 20+ engineers didn’t give the Hill Street congestion any attention. One engineer, however, saw our team member and pointed to the flash “Ara Tūhono” logo on their chest.
They might as well be wearing a Wallabies jersey.
They did, however, take notice of Hill Street. Their convoy was stuck at the intersection for four traffic light cycles.
Our art department suggested this:
Talking about unexplained phenomena, if you see any objects in the sky near the Hill Street intersection over the next month, don’t be alarmed. We have a drone filming the intersection during typical days and comparing it with Labour Weekend traffic. We’ll get a bird’s eye view of the problem.
DUCKS IN A ROW
Talking about birds, the purpose of our campaign is to ensure that NZTA and Auckland Transport get their ducks in a row. Fixing Hill Street should be a priority for decision makers and engineers because the order that several projects are implemented can compound a problem or create synergies. So far, instead of improving one of the Warkworth’s four urban State Highway 1 intersections, they propose building a further four intersections.
Several of our team have seen this before elsewhere in the country.
Talking about priorities (That’s my last segue, I promise), the Whangaparoa Peninsula Link Road (Penlink) has again been pushed down the priority list. Although all the land has been bought, preliminary engineering plans prepared, and budget set, planners recommended that work on it start in 2028 although the Unitary Plan provided for a huge population increase of the peninsula. Sound familiar?
Auckland Council is panicking over the cost overruns of the Central Rail Loop and potentially the Northern Tollway. They have oversold the benefits of these projects and under-estimated the costs, deferring smaller projects.
The most over-sold project is the NZTA’s Waterview Connection. National’s strategist, Steven Joyce, saw a huge political opportunity, took the reins as Minister of Transport, and bored a tunnel under Labour strongholds Mount Albert and Mount Eden. National won the party vote in those electorates at the last election.
The problem with Waterview is that it will be completed before the holiday period - less than a year from the next election. People will marvel at the tunnels and the junction but then be stuck in queues all the way to Spaghetti Junction and the Upper Harbour Highway junction with the Northern Motorway.
The engineers knew from the planning stage of Waterview that a significant proportion of traffic will take the Waterview route to the airport but only provided one lane from State Highway 1 onto the North-Western Motorway. “Studies” have only started on the Upper Harbour Highway junction with the Northern Motorway.
Although John Key is rarely in his Helensville electorate, pressure from action groups has resulted in fast-tracking of intersection upgrades to push the bottleneck into the next electorate, East Coast Bays. The MP there, Murray McCully, is rarely in the country to see the effects of regular gridlock. Fix Hill Street Now is aware of other action groups in that area and there is a real threat that Warkworth projects could be pushed down the priority queue.
POLITICAL vs PRACTICAL
When there is a significant divide between the two major parties, practicality often takes a back seat to politics. When a politician turns the first sod on a project, they want to be cutting the ribbon too.
The Waikato Expressway is the proverbial carrot dangled in front of voters. Designed to bypass the bottlenecks of Rangiriri, Huntly, Hamilton, and Cambridge, the last sections of the dual carriageway to be completed are those sections.
Roading projects “bypassing” Hill Street have been hologrammatic carrots from the start. Our campaign is to dismiss the myths and ensure that motorists stuck at Hill Street don’t rely on false hope from politicians.
CARROT vs STICK
Talking about carrots (that’s my last segue, I promise) we have an orange hardhat with “I Fixed Hill Street” emblazoned on it for the politician who takes ownership of fixing Hill Street.
Politicians’ offices are museums of achievements and galleries of photo ops. This hard hat will be a glowing endorsement on a par with sainthood.
A BARGAIN AT TWICE THE PRICE
In 1996, when Jenny Shipley was Minister of Transport, she gave a presentation to a Christchurch conference about the costs of building roads. Canterbury and Hawke’s Bay were the least expensive places to build roads. Auckland was almost twice the price due to the availability of materials, cost of site specific traffic and sediment management, and the cost of labour.
Twenty years later, Auckland is now more than two and a half times more expensive than Hawke’s Bay. Canterbury roading is as expensive to build as Auckland due to the over-demand for the rebuild. Still, in the space of twenty years, the cost of Auckland roading has tripled.
Case and point is Napier’s Meeanee Road/SH50 interchange completed in 2006 at a cost of $5.5 million. To build the same at Hill Street today would cost almost $20 million.
In 2006, the retired Ministry of Works engineer who managed the construction of Wellington’s coastal highway between Pukerua Bay and Paekakariki waded into the Transmission Gully debate. He already “future-proofed” the coastal road in the 1960s, allowing for conversion to a dual carriageway. (He did the same for the Wellington Motorway and Terrace Tunnel, as evidenced by the pillars seen here: http://bit.ly/2dbidG0.) Dusting off his engineering drawings and using the most recent cost of materials, he quoted the cost of completing the dual carriageway at a fraction of the cost of Transmission Gully.
“You forgot to include resource consent planning, project management, traffic management, and health and safety!” planners mocked. Planners then allowed a retirement village to be built on the “future-proofing” road designation, meaning that Transmission Gully was the only viable option.
Taking these factors into account, there is no better time to fix Hill Street than now. Congestion will only get worse and costs will only increase. The NZTA have a budget and the responsibility now to do something about the problem. Based on how other projects are being handled, we can’t let this opportunity slip.
Thank you everyone for subscribing to and sharing our newsletter. Thank you also for filling in our online poll and survey.
We’ve received many media inquiries and helped them understand the problem and the process towards a solution. We’ve also received several generous donations that will help maintain the momentum.
We’re an action group so we are working constructively in the background meeting with stakeholders and decision makers. We’re trying to find the best route forward.
If you would like to donate to our campaign, have ideas, or want to get involved in any other way, please send us a message on our website.