The past week has been a rollercoaster. One day, we feel that we are getting somewhere. Then we receive information showing that we don’t seem to be getting anywhere.
To make sure that the message does get through, we will be supporting Tony Arthur’s monthly protests at the intersection. Tony plans to run the protests on the first of every month between 7-9am at Kowhai Park until real progress is made. One supporter has offered to provide Hill Street Blueberry muffins. Yum!
TALE OF TWO BUREAUCRACIES
On Friday, we were pleased with news that Auckland Councillor for Rodney Greg Sayers had a column in the Herald mentioning Hill Street. Read it here: http://bit.ly/2krMaco
You gotta hand it to Greg. He didn’t hold back with his dissatisfaction of the culture within Auckland Council, contrasting it with the progress in Tauranga. Fortunately, it looks like Auckland Transport have got the message and are taking the lead. No doubt Greg will make sure that there is no backing away to fix the Hill Street intersection.
Greg made many valid points. Clearly, some at the NZTA have an agenda. Check out these two excerpts:
“Officials have fudged the data, oversold the benefits, and under-estimated the projects' costs just to get the green light.”
“It is just not acceptable for the NZ Transport Agency to push for "build it and they will come" billion-dollar-motorways but say "we won't fix it so stay away" to easily fixable intersections in Warkworth and Kumeu.”
And just today, NZTA’s Brett Gliddon continued his “we won’t fix it to stay away” attitude by warning people to “plan their journey” during the upcoming long weekends, especially around “hotspots” like Warkworth (http://bit.ly/2k4HKI0). One comment caught our attention:
“One of the busiest highways will be the Northern Gateway Toll Road on State Highway 1 north of Auckland, which had more than 21,000 trips a day during previous anniversary weekends.”
Shock horror that a motorway can’t handle 21,000 vehicles a day. According to the NZTA’s own data, State Highway 1 traffic entering the Hill Street intersection from the south on an average day is 22,206 vehicles.
Considering Greg Sayer’s comments about Tauranga, we did some research into the big-ticket projects in the Bay of Plenty area around Tauranga. The same two names kept popping up: Brett Gliddon and Simon Bridges.
Obviously, Simon Bridges happens to be the Tauranga Member of Parliament and the Minister of Transport, Economic Development, and Associate Minister of Finance. What Bridges wants, Bridges gets and not just for his electorate. During the 2015 Northland by-election, he fast-tracked the funding for the upgrade of 10 one-lane bridges as an economic development package. (http://bit.ly/2j6nfL7)
Brett Gliddon was the NZ Transport Agency’s Tauranga Highway Manager between 2011 and 2014, responsible for an annual business unit expenditure of approximately $130m and 19 staff (http://bit.ly/2gFXlg1). Looking through the many bypasses and intersection upgrades investigated and commenced during his tenure, one stood out.
We’ve studied the Mount Maunganui SH2/SH29A intersection at Baypark and you can see our analysis on our website at: http://www.fixhillstreetnow.org/design. Under Gliddon’s watch, it was decided that this intersection will be upgraded to an interchange and roundabout to “separate the local and state highway traffic” and “to address the long-term traffic volumes on this section of state highway.” (http://bit.ly/2j4cr00)
Yup, you heard that right. Work started in 2016 and will be completed in 2019. During that time, traffic volumes at this intersection will consistently be lower than levels at the Hill Street intersection and will continue to be so according to ten-year projections.
Before Gliddon was Tauranga’s Highway Manager, he was Principal Project Manager for the investigation phase of the Puhoi-Warkworth Tollway. He was the public face of the project and ran the gauntlet of Warkworth locals during the consultation phase. Our insiders tell us that, by the time he was reassigned, he was sick of even the mention of Hill Street.
One month before the Puhoi-Warkworth Tollway resource consent was approved, Gliddon became Auckland and Northland’s Highway Manager. The decision had an entire section dedicated to the problems with the Hill Street intersection and the consent included many conditions restricting use of the intersection by Tollway construction traffic.
Auckland Council, John Key, and the Rodney Member of Parliament recognize that the Hill Street intersection needs a major redesign. On the day of the sod-turning ceremony for the Tollway, however, Brett Gliddon said that the Tollway, Matakana Link, and Western Collector will “remove current frustrations” at Hill Street. (http://bit.ly/2ksieJ0)
That statement contradicts the evidence presented by his officials at the Board of Inquiry for the Tollway resource consent application. Every statement in the Rodney Times article against upgrading Hill Street contradicts Gliddon’s statements in support of the Baypark intersection upgrade.
While Simon Bridges and John Key were at the sod-turning on Wylie Road, Simon Bridges didn’t experience the Hill Street intersection first hand. In fact, we don’t know whether he understands the problems.
Take for example the latest letter from the minister. A local sent an email to him in November and only got a response last Tuesday. Essentially, the response is a cut-and-paste from Brett Gliddon’s press releases. Either that or Gliddon wrote it himself. See for yourself:
The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) advises me that…
Long term, improving the existing road network and constructing new links are considered the best ways to improve the ability for people to move around Warkworth. Auckland Transport's Western Collector, the Matakana Link Road, and the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway extension in particular will all reduce the stress on local roads such as the Hill Street intersection.
We’ve shown this fob-off letter to several elected officials. You can expect that the minister will be briefed with more accurate information from them. He will also be invited to see the intersection for himself.
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