The Eye of the Fish

Maximus
May 13, 2009

Motorway Fever

There’s a small town some hour or so north of Wellington, by commercial jet, called Auckland. Small town, big suburbs, not much of a city. Normally they don’t make it onto the Eye of the Fish web cam, but then again, they have 2 harbours whereas we just have one, and that makes my tiny flippers quiver. The news for Auckland today means I feel for them, in a fishy kind of way.

Not because they have John Banks as a mayor – they were silly enough to vote for him – twice – so they deserve whatever they get.

Not because they are having a so-called super-city thrust upon them – with or without maori representation, you just know that the poorer suburbs are going to get shafted.

And not because they can’t get to work on time in the morning – because they have a propensity to build motorways all over their isthmus, which is as painful a process to watch as it sounds.

It’s because (and this should be no surprise to anyone, but it still seems to be a surprise to some Aucklanders) the Government is planning to build a ground level / localised cut and cover motorway with some tunnels under major roads through Mount Albert, rather than a big underground tunnel. There are one or two reasons why they wanted a tunnel: it was going under an existing neighbourhood; and it happened to be Helen Clark’s neighbourhood.
map
There are also one or two reasons why it was never going to happen: the National Government are in now; and it happened to be Helen Clark’s neighbourhood. Plus there was the issue of cost. In motorway terms, its something like this:
Ground Level = expense
Cuttings = more expense
Bridges = even more expense
Tunnels = heaps more expense
cut3
cut2
I feel for Aucklanders today because although it was patently obvious there was never going to be a tunnel, for the good of the community that sits either side of the road, a tunnel would have been so much better. I feel for them because we had the same thing happen to us in Wellington – after years of talking about it, we finally got an inner city bypass aka a motorway at street level. And it is crap. Sadly, despite what we were promised, and what Transit / LTSA promised, it’s now reasonably clear to most people that what we have is not the best solution in terms of either:
Traffic flow (stop start congestion all day long)
Pedestrian flow (cuts the city in two)
Urban Design (some of the more pointless patches of grass and big concrete walls do not a pleasant place maketh)

Green Party candidate Russel Norman said the Government was going to bulldoze a motorway through the electorate:

“It is 1950s dinosaur thinking to hammer a motorway through the heart of a residential area,”

I know we can’t afford a $2 billion tunnel through a small Auckland Labour electorate.
I also know that a ground level motorway will absolutely kill the suburb. Taking up the cudgel is proliferate Auckland blogger Joshua Arbury.
And you should all know by now that there is no way a $1 billion road up a Gully is ever going to happen in Wellington. And it never was. But certainly now: it never will.
Post script amendment: I got it wrong, or at least partly wrong. Transit haven’t gone for the completely ground level option, as per Wellington, but instead have gone for a mix of both surface, tunnels, and cut&cover. Logically, they have put areas in tunnels where it cuts under major roads (see pix above). Also, logically for them, they’ve put it at ground level /cut and cover where it goes past something bothersome like Unitec – the former mental hospital / current university. And lastly, just to show their complete contempt for the environment in that fantastic way that Auckland does, they’ve put it straight through those bothersome bits of greenery like Hendon Park, Alan Wood Reserve, edge of Oakley Creek Reserve. Cos that’s just plants and stuff. And there’s a fair bit of wailing about 365 houses being destroyed to make way for it all. But at least they saved a billion or more.
As local residents were vocally pointing out on National Radio yesterday, and our local blogger DavidP was pointing out here, if it’s all underground then you can re-use the land on top, and sell it off again – so getting all those houses back.

starkive
13 - 05 - 09

Once a year or so, I raise the plaintive question – “what he hell is happening with all the Bypass collateral damage?” I know the answer formula – “Transit can’t release all the relocated and partly restored houses onto the market until they have tracked down the descendants of the original owners and offered them first refusal.” But for Fish’s Sake – it’s been years. Surely there’s some kind of statute of limitations on this half-hearted process.

The dreary Alphaville landscape of weedy motorway berms, pointless park benches and tumbling McDonalds wrappers might start to come a little bit back to life if the existing buildings were at least resettled. Then perhaps we could start talking about filling up the odd-shaped interstices with engagingly odd-shaped new buildings. Coral on Karo?

thomas
13 - 05 - 09

“It [the deep tunnel] would have cost around $540 million a kilometre.”
That’s a lot of money that could be redistributed back to NZ’ers who actually need it – and why has Labour suddenly changed its mind about borrowing to fund roadbuilding projects anyway? Make it a toll tunnel at least, so that a higher proportion of the incurred debt is financed by people who actually use it.

The thing is, Aucklanders want roads. I can assure you that the Mt Albertians ‘enjoy’ drive into work every morning, and that bus patronage is not high in that suburb. And you can bet your Wellington ass that if the development was to be in the suburb next door, that local residents would not be in the slightest bit phased – this is simply a case of nimbyism. If Aucklanders want roads, then Aucklanders (some of them) will have to darn well put up with having them in their backyards. As with having John Banks as Mayor – you get what you deserve

If we had the sort of money that is needed for the tunnel (which we don’t), then it should be invested in better public transport for the city. Damn well let the roads clog up even more – Aucklanders will get the picture sooner or later, and become the grown-up city they strive to be.

In urban design terms, a cut and cover would, imo, be an appropriate response, at a fraction of the cost of a deep tunnel, and providing opportunities for the redevelopment of the covered areas. But, despite your suggestion above, it doesn’t actually seem to be on the menu – the linked article suggests a surface road (although the exact form has not been decided yet…). Perhaps cut and cover is one of the options being considered?

Robyn
13 - 05 - 09

I’m just going to pretend that Auckland doesn’t exist. It’s all too heartbreaking.

In the 1960s, the heart of the working class suburb of Newton was ripped out to make way for the motorway. They were slums, you see, and poor people lived there. The original plan was to also have the harbour bridge route going through the slums of Ponsonby, but that was avoided and now those slums are highly desirable inner city suburbs.

Now the same is going to happen with the shitty part of Mt Albert. An inner suburban area is going to be ripped out and turned into a great big road, to feed the automobile habit that a city was tricked into developing due to flawed research in the 1950s.

So angry.

Grafter
13 - 05 - 09

Same thing with Grafton Bridge – spanning over the great bird filled, kauri and rimu filled Grafton Gully, with rows of littel houses set into the bottom of the gully. Then there was one little road through, then another, and now a whole bunch, and nearly no trees left. And of course – no houses…

erentz
13 - 05 - 09

Come on maximus, the bypass is hardly a motorway.

I went to Auckland for an interview yesterday. Its been a few years. Everytime, it just makes me so sad, because Auckland could be an amazing city, but Aucklanders just don’t seem to understand that they’re their own worst enemies. It took me 50 minutes to get by car from the airport to Newmarket, at 1pm. From Newmarket I took a brand new link bus that already smelled like a public toilet into the city (I was literally on the verge of vomiting all the way), this was around a 20 minute trip that was stop start the whole way with far too many cars in the way. On the way back to the airport another 55 minutes on the airbus, at a cost of $15, that reeked of stale cigarettes. From Queen St to SH20 the whole way we were literally keeping pace with a cyclist, which was impressive given it is quite hilly. There are simply far too many cars, all with their single occupant, and it cannot cope, and no amount of motorway building will fix that, ever. Until Aucklander’s either wake up and direct their leaders to invest in PT, or their leaders take the kind of initiative seen in other cities like Perth, and against public opposition invest in PT, it will remain an ugly city. Unfortunately I’m going to be living there for the next 3 months, so I better get used to it.

davidp
13 - 05 - 09

If you’d cut and covered the bypass (with, say, 3 lanes each way), then could you have paid for most of it by building apartments and offices on top of it? A quick look at a map suggests there is room for about 80 blocks between the Vivian St exit and the Basin, assuming one intermediate exit requiring ramps at Taranki St. At a couple of million bucks per block, the land would be worth $150million or so. Even if my calculations are wrong by a factor of three, $50million would still defray a big chunk of digging a trench and covering it.

I find Auckland and Wellington to be significantly under-motorwayed compared to other cities I’ve lived in. By comparison, Amsterdam has a ring motorway, a partial ring motorway, and nine or ten radial motorways leading in and out of the city. Its population isn’t too different from Auckland’s. And I’ve had it described to me (by a public transport enthusiast) as the sort of city we should be emulating. Greenpeace have their international headquarters in the city, so it must pass some sort of green test.

Kent Duston
13 - 05 - 09

The SST commented on Auckland’s road-building fiesta some weeks back, and I mentioned it in a blog post …. http://wellingtontransport.wordpress.com/2009/03/30/the-sst-comments-on-auckland-transport-issues/

******
“Today’s Sunday Star Times has taken a thoughtful and informed leap into the Auckland transport debate with their Bright Lights Big Mess article, where they examine Auckland’s transport woes in light of advice from overseas – and the result is a resounding indictment of the National Government’s road-building mantra. The key quote is this one, from Paul Mees at RMIT in Melbourne:

Auckland has spent more on roads per head than any Australian city – and look at the results, Mees says. “There’s nothing remotely comparable to Spaghetti Junction in any Australian city – nothing on the scale of that. Auckland has that, and yet it has worse traffic congestion than larger cities that don’t have it.”

And further on in the article:

“I actually use Auckland in some of my books on the basis that it’s one of the most extreme cases in the world of a city that’s spent 50 years putting all of its eggs in the motorway basket. It isn’t reasonable for someone to say Auckland should have invested more in motorways, because there’s no one who’s invested more in motorways, relative to its population and income, than Auckland.”
*******

The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again, whilst expecting the outcome to be different. This seems to perfectly sum up Auckland’s transport planning …. lots of motorways simply cause congestion, so the best solution is to build even more of them!

Jason
13 - 05 - 09

I love Auckland. It is full of beautiful contradictions. Some areas of Auckland, particularly the inner-city suburbs, are gorgeous, with sidewalk cafes, pedestrian friendly areas, parks and gardens. And the shops!

This tunnel was one of the few massive roading projects I have ever supported, and not because of Mount Albert, but because it’d mean the Airport is finally linked to the city by motorway. That’s important, despite the love of buses and trains on this blog, a reliable, high capacity road link from the country’s biggest city to the country’s biggest airport is an important strategic asset. Also, it would get the cars off Pah/Manukau Roads. Actually, that last bit’s probably not true.

I will have more thoughts later, but I’m leaving work now.

erentz
13 - 05 - 09

davidp, totally agree with you. I think 4-lanes would’ve been enough, with at-grade intersections at Taranaki St and the Basin to balance the capacity. If we needed more capacity than that and with grade separated intersections then I think it’s probably the wrong route.

Anyway the cost for a 4-lane covered trench to Taranaki St at the time they were building the bypass would’ve been around $120 million. I guess another few hundred metres to the Basin Reserve around an additional ~$50 million say. Consider the cost of the bypass itself was around $47 million (IIRC), you’re almost half way there for the first section. Plus the value from building on top. Now consider they want to spend $50 million on the Basin, that’s almost enough in today’s terms to do the Memorial Park tunnel section (which hasn’t been considered because of the compltely non-existent strategy as confirmed by the Council, the existing mistake that is the bypass, and limited scope). So you’d have your nice underground SH1, with at grade intersections completed sometime in the next couple of years.

(Plus think of the toll revenue from charging people $1 per trip say, at 30,000 trips a day, thats like $10 million annually. I really fail to see why we wound up with the bypass as it is today, it’s clearly a mistake, and the flyover is a very similar smistake, created by the same short term thinking and lack of strategy.)

Maximus
13 - 05 - 09

“Come on maximus, the bypass is hardly a motorway”

Well yeah, but no, but yeah… point is, in Wellington we have the Terrace tunnel , where it is a motorway, and then we have a giant concrete slot where the offramp / on ramp is, and then we have the same volume of traffic going at ground level through city streets. And sometimes the drivers want to put the pedal down a little, just as if they were already on the motorway already.

So what I’m trying to say, is that if the traffic was underground, it would be on a motorway. If it was on an overhead bridge, it would in effect be on a motorway. And yet it is at ground level, where there are road intersections and pedestrian crossings, and all that – and yet the cars on it really still want to be on the motorway, speeding across town. So: is a motorway really truely not a motorway, if the cars just happen to be at ground level?

mobsta
13 - 05 - 09

“…Around 60 percent of Auckland’s controversial Waterview Connection motorway link will be underground, Transport Minister Steven Joyce says.

The Transport Agency has this afternoon announced its preference for the five kilometres between the south western and north western motorways.

Mr Joyce said the route includes building the motorway under Great North Road and in a tunnel under New North Road and under Avondale Heights.

Agency chairman Brian Roche said their choice had the least impact on neighbourhoods and parks and creates the least split in the community….”

So some of it will be underground after all.
Just not as much as proposed for the full tunnel option.
Still demolishing 365 houses though…..

It will cost $1.4 billion and is $1 billion cheaper than the original deep tunnel option.

Maximus
14 - 05 - 09

Thomas – I find it amazing that tunnels can cost $540million per kilometre. I know that construction is expensive – but honestly, it just shouldn’t be that expensive: actually, I suspect that its all the stop start that is expensive. Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) would cost about $20million each. The Germans and Austrians are boring tunnels over 50km long – at $540 million per km, that would cost them $27billion – and clearly its not.

I’ll try to do a longer post on this later.

Kent Duston
14 - 05 - 09

Mobsta – while it’s true that NZTA and Joyce are spinning it that the proposal is $1 billion cheaper, there’s some very dodgy accounting going on. The tunnel option included $550 million in interest charges, while the preferred option doesn’t, so it would appear that the real difference is about $450 million, or less than half the stated saving.

Whichever way you look at it, though, the costs are truly astounding. The Auckland construction companies must be rubbing their hands together in glee – an even bigger boondoggle than Eden Park!

davidp
14 - 05 - 09

Max>I find it amazing that tunnels can cost $540million per kilometre.

Me to. The Oresund link between Sweden and Denmark cost around DKK30billion, which is about $NZ9billion. That got them a 4km tunnel under the sea, 8km of bridge across the sea, and a 4km long artificial island. All supporting 2 lanes each way of traffic and a couple of rail lines. That seems a bargain by comparison.

jayseatee
15 - 05 - 09

Max>I find it amazing that tunnels can cost $540million per kilometre.

I find that hard to believe as well. Seattle is just finishing a light rail system which includes boring through a large part of the route. Here is an article about just one section where they are doing 2 nearly mile long tunnels which were contracted for 279 million USD.

That equates to roughly 3 km at 279 million USD, or 90 million USD/km. Even with an exchange rate at .50 NZD/USD that’s 180 million per km. Granted these are light rail tunnels, not motorway, but 540 seems pretty steep.

jayseatee
15 - 05 - 09

sorry, forgot the link
http://www.seattlepi.com/transportation/267366_tunnel20.html

thomas
15 - 05 - 09

Apparently it costs 50 million to get one machine here for a start – but yes, I agree that National has probably inflated the figures a little.

I do disagree with Karo Drive being considered a motorway from a drivers’ point of view – it is a clear 50KmpH area, and driver behaviour adjusts to that (those who speed do so in other 50kmpH streets also…) – it is completely different from a motorway driving experience. however, I grant you that from a pedestrian experience (and especially given the adopted ‘aesthetic), that there is in fact little difference…

Honeywood
15 - 05 - 09

Perhaps they should get the machine and then use it afterwards to drill a few more well-placed tunnels for a light rail ssytem through central Auckland, making efficient use of the $50m – or would that be too lateral for them?

thomas
15 - 05 - 09

Here is the link to the Transit powerpoint with the proposed costs of each option (go to the 11th slide):
http://www.transit.govt.nz/projects/waterviewconnection/resources/pdf/Waterview%20presentation%2013%20May_1.pdf

Labour’s scheme is $2.77Billion, for a 48km stretch of road – I asked my friend Google, and got the following result: 2770 million divided by 48 = 57 708 333.3 – so ‘only’ $57Million per kilometer. I’m not sure if the Land Transport figures include the cost of importing a couple of machines…?

So, the National Party option of $1.165 billion saves $800 Million on the Labour scheme, plus, it is financed from National Land Transport Fund – MONEY THAT IS GENERATED FROM ROAD-USERS (and it should be pointed out that the total nationwide road building budget last year was $1.2 billion – which puts this project into quite some perspective!).

Why the residents of Mt Albert should be lavished with a nation’s worth of road spending is beyond me anyway, but to add extra funding – and Labour have not indicated where it is to come from – is truly beyond the pale. If it is to be borrowed, then we have extra borrowing costs. If it is from tax revenue, then in the current climate of a decade’s worth of structural deficit, we are looking at significant cuts to other social spending (education anyone? Health, who needs it?) – or perhaps even the raising of taxes.

Put it this way, Labour’s deep tunnel scheme, consumes $1,752 of my household income (if we use a simple but slightly dubious per capita calculation of $438 per NZer), for a project that i will see no benefit from? I can tell you is a significant amount of money in the today’s climate. I don’t mind the concept of social spending – but Labour have this all wrong – this is a luxury for Mt Albert that we (NZ) can ill-afford. Methinks they are sacrificing too much to win a dear seat, for the sake of sentiment and form, than actually having an eye for national interests, and this may actually come back to bite them in the run up to the next election.

But I do have a proposal for Labour (only partially tongue in cheek): the first $1.16Billion be funded from tolls on the new section of road, with the additional $800Million drawn from those local residents who would like to have the road in a deep tunnel. User-pays has never been so beautiful!

rondo
15 - 05 - 09

I’m not too worried whether its a National or Labour promoted scheme – more concerned what the best result would be for Aucklanders and their traffic experiences. Is a tunnel going to really give that many advantages? What if there was a crash in the tunnel and it caught on fire? Are there escape routes built into it? Air vents?

Yes, a tunnel would be nicely tucked away below ground and out of sight and beyond the audible barrier – but are there other side effects for Mt Albert? (Apart of course from Melissa Lee’s hilarious gaffe / crime theory – build motorways in tunnels ! Reduce Crime ! )

thomas
15 - 05 - 09

Correction, I should have noted the $1.974billion figure from the Transit table in my above rant – which is the figure that I used to generate the $800Million difference between the two schemes.

Anyway, here’s a little further perspective:
1 tunnel ($1.974Billion) divided by 1 Wellington Hospital ($250Million) equals 7.8… (the number of new hospitals that could be built for the cost of this tunnel)…

The difference between the two proposed schemes is the cost of building 3 hospitals (with a bit of spare change left over…)

Honeywood
15 - 05 - 09

I don’t have the numbers for transmission gully (cost or distance) but is there someone out there that can do the math and compare it with the Mt Albert tunnel (and/or other options)? Maximus? Keen to stay up all night ? if you’ve got time left over you could work out the cost of a tunnel underneath the Pentagon.. .

erentz
15 - 05 - 09

TGM, last estimated to cost $1.025 billion, at approximately 27 km: $38 million per kilometer.

Tunnel under the Pentagon: priceless.

m-d
15 - 05 - 09

I suspect the Mt Albert project will mean that there will not be a Transmission Gully one. While I always viewed the TGM as an expensive white elephant, this outcome can hardly be considered a victory for common sense!

jayseatee
15 - 05 - 09

FYI there is a tunnel under the pentagon (an officially recognised one). It’s part of the washington metro rail system. Not sure how much it cost tho…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentagon_(Washington_Metro)

jayseatee
15 - 05 - 09

What New Zealand needs to do is to get the Rand Corporation in, in alliance with the reptoids, to build one of these 14,000 mph high speed rail tunnel systems.
http://www.reptoids.com/Vault/AllNewArticles/Tunnelsandshuttles.htm

Maximus
17 - 05 - 09

Rand Corp and Reptoids? That’s creepy. There’s not a trace of irony there at all – surely they can’t be serious – and if they are – whoa ! That’s a pretty screwed up belief system right there! Makes Creationists appear quite sane…