Thank you again Steve Hathaway for your patience to film Hill Street with your drone over Labour Weekend. Craig Powell of LMLive was also filming. The traffic and weather was more erratic than last week.
This week's newsletter has some background analysis about what will be mentioned in the media over the coming week. If you get the time, please read the information at the links.
Labour Weekend congestion was significantly less than previous years. Other areas experienced the same phenomenon. A couple of State Highway 1 crashes in and around Auckland also caused chaos.
The NZTA released several travel advisories well in advance, warning about ‘increased journey times.’ Did people simply choose to stay at home? (http://bit.ly/2eFyDYL)
Unfortunately, people are already avoiding the area. Tour groups from visiting cruise ships don’t venture here as there is a risk that congestion could make buses late for the ship’s departure.
The NZTA’s attitude towards the Tollway appears to be the opposite to Hill Street. “Build it and they will come” is their attitude towards the Tollway but “We won’t fix it so stay away” is their attitude towards Hill Street.
SAY THAT AGAIN?
Politics is about benefits outweighing the costs (win more votes than lose). The Resource Management Act, however, is ensuring that no one is left worse off.
For a start, NZTA weren’t clear about how much traffic would use the Tollway. At the Puhoi end (p.30 here: http://bit.ly/2f6NtM9), 13700 annual average daily trips would use it. At the end (p.31), 5700 would use it. As Roger Williams pointed out at the hearing, even though there are no on or off ramps in between, 8000 vehicles a day would disappear between. (p.346 here: http://bit.ly/1n86TJT)
Let’s assume the 13700 number is the correct one. NZTA plan to build a dual carriageway (two lanes in each direction) costing $1billion to cater for traffic that’s a fraction of what uses the Hill Street Intersection.
WHAT EVIDENCE WAS THERE?
We dare anyone to go into any of the big engineering firms and ask them, “Could you please give evidence against your biggest client?” Fortunately, the one engineer who dared to challenge the NZTA’s evidence retired to Warkworth. Roger Williams’ 42 years’ experience aided the Board of Inquiry immensely, although the NZTA’s lawyer tried to make it inadmissible.
Usually, a panel of hearings commissioners comprises a judge and experts in relevant fields to the application. Windfarm applications have landscape architects as commissioners, hydrodams have hydrologists, and marinas have ecologists. For the Tollway, there was David Chandler, an experienced civil engineer with particular experience with road and motorway systems (see link: http://bit.ly/2eHXpr1).
The reason why panels have experts is that they are meant to operate like commissions of inquiry. They are meant to draw on their own experience and expertise, to encourage the free flowing of information, to ask for the right information, and to find the best outcome. In such an open approach, experts should feel comfortable suggesting mitigating measures against a former client.
Unfortunately, since the renaming of the Planning Tribunal to the Environment Court in 1996, lawyers have moved in, along with their adversarial tactics and formalised procedure. Hearings at all levels have become a war of attrition where might is right and good decisions are rare.
The Board of Inquiry did an excellent job. The banter between Roger and retired Judge Priestley QC is worth a read. They even compared the ‘temperamental’ Hill Street intersection to Downtown Abbey!
Surprisingly, after the Tollway application was lodged and submissions were received, the NZTA expert did concede the following about Hill Street:
57. My modelling indicates that there will be an increase in traffic volumes on Hill Street past the Warkworth Primary School. This increase is partly as a result of the induced traffic growth in the corridor and the relocation of growth from Woodcocks Road to the Hudson Road area, and partly as a result of changed traffic patterns as a result of the Project.
58. I consider that the increase in volumes on Hill Street as a result of the Project have only a minor potential adverse effect on road safety. However, I recommend that prior to opening the Project or significant uptake of additional development adjacent to Hudson Road, the Transport Agency and Auckland Transport (AT) undertake a review of road safety associated with Warkworth Primary School. The Transport Agency and AT have indicated that they will undertake such a review if traffic volumes on Hill Street begin to increase significantly.
If the NZTA’s own expert says that, why are locals still thinking that the Tollway will fix Hill Street? (See for yourself, page 11 here: http://bit.ly/2dHVEgT)
Probably the most startling omission from the evidence is the lack of knowledge about how much of the traffic in Warkworth was through traffic. Basically, there were simple counters to the south of Warkworth and counters to the north. There was no attempt to qualitatively assess how much traffic went through, to, from, or stopped in Warkworth.
Considering State Highway 1 traffic immediately south of the Hill Street intersection is 21,800 AADT and 11,900 to the north, wouldn’t you want to know why there is that drop in traffic?
Why is this important? The Tollway collects traffic at Puhoi and transplants it uninterrupted to north of Warkworth. There are no on or off ramps in between. That is a considerable shift in the route choices for Warkworth drivers. How much traffic would head north through Hill Street to use the Tollway? Who would use the existing route?
The NZTA could have collected this data. They had the technology available to them. Just look at how they collect their revenue for the existing Tollway i.e. by reading licence plates.
The Police trialled a system years ago where two portable digital cameras with registration plate readers were positioned 10 kilometres apart. If a vehicle traveled between those two points in less than a certain time, they’d receive a speeding ticket depending on their average speed.
This system could be adapted to working out traffic through Warkworth, where the NZTA would know average travel times through Warkworth, how long a driver stopped in Warkworth, and how much traffic came from Warkworth itself. How on earth have they calculated their ‘average journey times’ up until now?
Instead, NZTA presented evidence that, when the Tollway is finished, almost as much traffic will use the current State Highway 1 route as the Tollway. Wouldn’t NZTA want a higher proportion to use the Tollway?
Furthermore, NZTA calculated that 49% of traffic at the end of the Tollway would turn right towards Warkworth. Great. Not 51%? Not 50%? Talk about a number picked out of thin air!
One word was picked out of thin air. While lawyers squabbled and experts fudged, the Board of Inquiry pushed through conditions for the resource consent using a term without defining it. See for yourself:
D23 A SSTMP (Site Specific Traffic Management Plan) shall be prepared in accordance with Conditions D20 to D22 for:
(c) The Hill Street intersection (being the intersections of State Highway 1, Hill Street, Elizabeth Street, Matakana Road, Sandspit Road and Millstream Place). This SSTMP shall include specific times for the prohibition of heavy construction traffic using the Hill Street intersection, based on the following periods:
So, what is ‘peak’? Is it a time or a flow? Is it both? Can there be more than one peak per morning or afternoon, such as lunchtime, school start and end? If one road reaches peak, does that mean construction traffic can’t use any of the intersection? Is ‘peak’ when the intersection reaches capacity?
Traffic flow is significantly higher since September 2014 when the decision was made. ‘Peak’ might be lower than capacity. Capacity is reached more often and for longer now. As traffic growth continues, peak periods could stretch to prevent any construction traffic from using the intersection.
According to Auckland Transport, the intersection is already operating at capacity in all directions. Could this mean that Tollway construction traffic can’t use Hill Street at all?
Fortunately, the Board of Inquiry had the insight to leave D21 “intentionally left blank” in the Site Specific Traffic Management Plans section of the conditions for resource consent. We would suggest the consent authority review D23 and amend D21 to avoid this more than minor adverse effect.
Conversely, NZTA could avoid the adverse effect by fixing Hill Street first so they can complete the Tollway sooner.
CHECKS AND BALANCES
Roger isn’t alone. He has a team and it is growing. Our newsletter and campaign has gained a lot of attention from experts from throughout the world. We’ve had transport engineers from the United Kingdom, Australia, and even Germany peer reviewing our research and modelling. Thank you all.
We support the Tollway, the Matakana Link, and the Western Collector. We just want an integrated and synergistic programme to reduce Warkworth congestion and, anyway you look at it, all roads start at Hill Street.
WHAT IS NEXT?
Over the next week, keep an eye out in the local papers and national news sites. Also, keep an eye out for our ever-changing billboards.
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.