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The Gauntlet: Issue #54



Newsletter #54 - 20 November 2017


This past week, the focus has been on briefing the four locally-based Members of Parliament about planning for the potential growth and transport demands in the Warkworth area. On the Hill Street front, there is again nothing new to report.


NOTE: This week's issue has many graphics that can be enlarged by clicking on them. Then, they can also be downloaded by right clicking and then saving on your device.



STRUCTURE

In the absence of action, we’ve been driving around Auckland and looking at how other growth areas are coping. The story is disturbing. The Auckland planning department are allowing intensive suburbs at a faster rate than Auckland Transport can reconfigure intersections to cope with changing traffic patterns.


For example, Riverhead (http://bit.ly/2iy7OcB) is a maze of unconnected new subdivisions on a grid of old unformed paper roads. See for yourself:


Even if there is a structure plan or a network of paper roads, Auckland Council allows developers to do what they want. This is endemic with the number of non-notified resource consents issued for non-complying activities. You wonder, what’s the point of communities framing ‘sustainable’ plans when council planners unilaterally ignore them? It seems that the council is determined to lower our expectations of them.


Warkworth has a similar history and there are no signs of Auckland Council acting any differently. Even the most recent subdivisions have paper roads that do not logically connect with neighbouring properties. Look at all the unformed or closed paper roads in this map:


The lack of an interconnected road network puts strain on the few roads that do connect. Hence, the amount of traffic that needs to use the Hill Street intersection.


But even the proposed order of the construction of the ‘ringroad’ around Warkworth lacks logic. In fact, it is in the reverse order of need. The largest growth in traffic has been on Sandspit Road. The Sandspit Link is ‘last off the rank’, after the Matakana Link. The Western Collector may be built first when Hudson Road already provides a link to the west. According to the business case for the Matakana Link, it would be optimal is the Matakana Link and Sandspit Link were completed at the same time.


Whereas the Warkworth area relies heavily on the Hill Street intersection as a hub, Riverhead has a network of arterials to connect with the State Highway network. There are a combination of roundabouts and t-shaped intersections. Locals rely on Google Traffic to find the intersection with the least congestion. It is interesting to see what works and what doesn’t.


CONFLICTED

The short-term upgrades to the Hill Street intersection puts us in a conflicting position. Based on the NZTA’s public statements and previous designs, we know they prefer traffic lights to roundabouts. Auckland Transport has conjured up a combination of traffic lights and barriers. Auckland Council has built a roundabout in Kowhai Park. Should we support a traffic light-based short-term solution if it risks being the long-term solution?


NZTA has given Auckland Transport $2million for the investigation and design of a major upgrade. Traffic sensor equipment (those beige boxes at the side of the road) have appeared on all branches of the intersection some distance from the intersection. Could this equipment be simply counting traffic or form part of a linked traffic light system?


We haven’t received any straight answers but would appreciate if the equipment was part of the traffic monitoring. We hope that Auckland Transport has good data.


Anyway, transport engineer Roger Williams has been keeping in regular contact with Auckland Transport. As an alternative to the barrier, he has offered several alternatives. Here is the latest, seen in the Mahurangi Matters (http://bit.ly/2jBZKLa):



SEQUENCING

At approximately the same time as the Northern Gateway Tollway started construction under the last Labour Government in 2008, a project commenced for a major upgrade of Hill Street, culminating in this design in 2010:


Effectively, all the branches to the intersection were linked by traffic lights and there would be no queuing between Elizabeth Street and State Highway 1.