The Eye of the Fish

January 25, 2010


In other news, keep an eye out on this website from NZTA regarding the long-awaited ‘options’ for the flyover in the Basin Reserve. There’s nothing much there at present, as they have yet to load on the different ‘options’ their design team has come up with, but they promise to undertake some ‘consultation’ with the public, in 2 phases:

“The first will be in February 2010 when the project team will have a number of options ready for public consultation.
The second will be in the latter part of 2010 after a preferred option has been selected.”

They’ve got a helpful Questions and Answers section, where they are putting some spin out – getting their response out before the questions get too tricky. So far they have answered the question “Can you build a tunnel?” like this:

“Investigations have indicated that building an east-west tunnel may attract more traffic to the area and will not improve the performance and efficiency of passenger transport. There are also significant cost and geotechnical issues associated with this option.”

My answer to them would be: Poppy cock! Yes, of course it will cost more, but the benefits are also greater. It is great news that if they put a tunnel in, it will suck more traffic into it, and therefore remove more traffic from other roads. Sounds good to me. And it “will not improve the performance and efficiency of passenger transport” ? There’s a simple answer to that too: Try a bit harder! You’re (presumably) clever people. You can make it work without screwing everything up.

“How will it affect passenger transport?”

“The improvements will form part of a passenger transport spine that will reduce congestion and improve travel times for buses and other travellers to and from the southern and eastern suburbs.”

See? Sounds like you have it sorted already. Told you you could do it!

They also ask: “Will important heritage buildings be affected?”

“A review of the heritage buildings in the area has been completed. Independent archaeologists and heritage specialists are working with NZTA to minimise or avoid impacts on these buildings.”

Hmmm, weasel words again. It’s ironic to think that apart from the old Police station on the corner, there is really only one heritage building in the area – that little old school Home of Compassion Creche (1914, designed by John Swan) hiding in the bushes.

Everything else – the Basin gates, the Basin Grandstand, the Rifleman Motor Inn, the nasty Massey student Housing blocks – they’re all rubbish, and could all quite happily go.

But I’m guessing there is only one thing in the way: the little old building. So: let’s just bite the bullet and move it as a first step. There is of course a massive amount of buried heritage in the area – the old Wellington Jail was on the hill before Massey (apparently sitting broodingly on top of the hill and providing a gloomy warning to all those sail boats entering the harbour), and remains of the jail brickworks will be uncovered when they start to dig. There is also the Military Barracks and the parade ground, old cellars, munitions, the foundations to a former School or two – the area is ripe with heritage, but nothing that should stand in the way.

If anyone at NZTA was being clever, they would have hired the Archaeologists to dig up the site over the summer, so it doesn’t slow the process down, although with the weather we’ve been having, maybe its just as well they weren’t that organised.

So: let’s get cracking!

26 - 01 - 10

I don’t understand how a tunnel will generate more traffic than an overpass – is there a Toyota manufacturing plant associated with the tunnel proposal? Ditch that, and there will be fewer geotechnical issues methinks…

26 - 01 - 10

I can’t believe you have to ask why a tunnel causes more traffic… An overpass is open to the air and therefore the air pressure is equalised. A tunnel creates a vacuum which actually sucks traffic into it. It’s basic physics.

Kent Duston
26 - 01 - 10

The NZTA FAQs were an exceptionally good laugh, although I have to confess it was difficult concentrating on them over the incessant whine of the PR spin machine in the background.

As the Agency is being less than forthcoming with its answers (or facts, or the designs, or much else) we thought it might be helpful to provide the actual answers to the questions …..

26 - 01 - 10

On an almost related topic, now that NZTA has finally ended the farcical delay in releasing the transplanted bypass buildings to the open market, can anybody establish the status of the various awkward unbuilt pockets of land scattered about them? Will there be sales there too? Or will we continue to enjoy them as urban motorway berms?

27 - 01 - 10

Kent, that’s a great piece of work. I’d recommend you all follow that link and check out the ‘actual’ answers provided to NZTA’s questions. And I’d invite the NZTA to respond asap…. As an example:

5. How much will it cost?
NZTA Answer
Detailed costs will be developed for each option as they are designed. The Regional Land Transport Strategy has provided for a budget of $51 million.

Actual Answer
NZTA’s budget estimates for this project have been disastrously incompetent. Back in late 2007 this project was slated to cost a mere $27 million; by mid 2009 it had risen to $38 million; by early 2010 some $51 million was being quoted. Costs on the project are exploding about five to ten times faster than the Consumer Price Index (CPI), and yet some of the primary geotechnical investigations haven’t even been carried out. Given NZTA’s recently appalling record of cost management – such as the doubling of estimates for strengthening of the Auckland Harbour Bridge – there is very little likelihood that today’s $51 million budget will suffice. So as well as being a pointless boondoggle, it going to be an expensive boondoggle.

Kent Duston
28 - 01 - 10

Have you seen the Architecture Centre proposals –

Their approach with multiple tunnels and improved green space around the Basin are really great. And Guy has left a comment on the Save The Basin site that explains in a bit more detail how the scheme would work –

This is the kind of integrated and enlightened thinking the Basin Reserve needs, rather than the dumb-ass car-centric approaches of traffic engineers. (Well, IMHO!)

3 - 02 - 10

The Arch Centre’s idea for the Basin has been picked up by the Capital Times this week – there is a picture of the Basin Reserve part of the Wellington 2040 scheme, and a small article. Good work you lot!

NZTA of course, is quick to dismiss it all as impossible.
“It would be a major engineering challenge to build a tunnel under the Basin Reserve – the ground conditions are very difficult and the water table is high. It would also be a expensive solution, and the necessary funding is not available,” says Rob Whight, Wellington state highways manager.”

However, Council Spokesman Richard MacLean is a lot more optimistic: he “says the design incorporates quite a few ideas that have been discussed over the last hundred years. But one of the things that is unusual is having another tunnel under the existing one,” he says. “Consultation [over the Flyover] is starting this month, so we’d hope people like the Architectural Centre would be a part of that.”
A six-week public consultation for the Basin Reserve will start on February 22 and finish on April 2. The preferred option will be made public by mid-year.

3 - 02 - 10

That’s a great drawing of the greening of the basin and environs. Not sure how to get to Wellington College and Government House though – do you have to go through the lower tunnel to Hataitai and come back through the higher one?

Love the tsunami coming over the hill from Houghton Bay!

Kent Duston
4 - 02 - 10

Isn’t it interesting how NZTA has billions of dollars to spend on roading projects that don’t make economic sense – such as Transmission Gully and the new Puhoi to Wellsford link – but no money to improve the liveability of the communities they run these roads through.

It’s a pretty clear message from NZTA – cars are more valuable than people.

5 - 02 - 10

It’s a little unrealistic, and all those tunnel portals would be pretty ugly. I think one tunnel portal is enough, on the NW side into the Memorial Park Tunnel, just keep it a four-lane, 2-way boulevard on the northern side. Plenty of bigger roads around the world manage not to screw up the urban environment. North/South connectivity in a two-way link around a widened Sussex St and over the portal down to Cambridge/Kent makes sense, get rid of all these underpasses/curvey one way bits that are planned. South/east side becomes parkland. Provide a nice architectural sweeping pedestrian bridge to connect the duffering st side over the boulevard.

Kent, why spend more on it? Nobody else in the region cares because they don’t live there, and anyone else who raises opposition tends to do so in a non-negotiable way. People need to do what they did in auckland and push for a tunnel, or some other compromise, rather than push an outright do nothing philosophy.

7 - 02 - 10

I don’t see why they have to waste time & $$$ on lowering the roads for tunnels. Whatever is done will be a major disruption to the area until it is finished. So, just rebuild to the new requirements, then fill in over the top and raise the Basin playing ground to a new level eg that of Sussex Street.
New underground layout could be a “diamond” ring road, or even a cross intersection (though anything to help avoid accidents underground would be preferable).
A further option could be two levels of road (east-west Vic tunnel to Buckle street link above the Adelaide Road-Kent/Cambridge Tce link) and raise the Basin even higher to the level of Tasman Street.
And where will the fill come from? … … … why, the new Vic tunnel(s) of course; Start drilling the tunnel soon after the basics of the “Basin roads” are done – save money on transporting all that fill etc etc.

8 - 02 - 10

Great new post from save the basin: