The Eye of the Fish

Maximus
August 14, 2012

You want Flys with that?

On the one hand Brownlee giveth: on the other hand he taketh away. Last week Wellington had the unexpected pleasure of finding that Memorial Park was to be saved from the knackers yard and the motorway was put underground (in a trench). This week we are about to wake up and find out that the other half of the bargain is that Basin Reserve continues to be stuffed with an aerial anaconda of acrobatic autostrada, aka a Flyover. I’m picking that they will pick Option A.

Parliament meets today – my guess is that it will be announced tomorrow. The government department in charge, NZTA, must be smarting over the backdown they have had to endure – who knows, perhaps they are overjoyed – by changing their idealogical stance that Memorial Park should be put smashing through at ground level, and now saying that it should be trenched below the surface at a cost of “$75 – 100 million”. This is to ensure that:

A – traffic can keep flowing under the Park during those two days a year that the State Highway is currently stopped to allow ANZAC type services to take place,

B – proper respect is given to those who have paid the “ultimate sacrifice” (also known as slaughtered and left to die in a foreign land due to officer incompetence and army intransigence).

It may also have something to do with the fact that:

C – NZTA screwed up, and having traffic stuck on a tunnel / aerial flyover for 3 hours, with no option of getting off or backing up, but instead being diverted probably back in Kilbirnie…. let’s not go there. Happiness and joyfulness all around, and Athfields / Wraights can get on with designing the park that they always should have done.

Of course there is the question of alternatives to Options A or B, which it seems that the NZTA refused to even think about. Despite a pretty hefty anti-flyover campaign by the Mt Vic Residents Association, Mt Cook Mobilised, Newtown Residents Association, and of course the grand-daddy of them all, the only ones who sat down and figured out an alternative: Architectural Centre, it seems that Option X was going nowhere once the DomPost shot it down.

It’s curious that Arch Centre hasn’t been more up in arms about this: the Dom published low end cost estimates for Options A and B, which didn’t include contingencies or all the extras, nor did they include costs for Memorial Park. When it came to publishing the cost of Option X, the Dom posted a figure which included the full top end contingency, included all the extra options, and included a trenched tunnel cost for the Memorial Park. Option A “could be built for” $95m, while Option X “could be as much as $165 million”.

It will be interesting if they pick up on the fact that now Option A PLUS Memorial Park trenching could equal $195 million, while Option X would still have an upper cost of $165 million – and already includes that trenching of the park in its calcs. The lower end cost of X must be – i dunno, haven’t done the maths, but was it something like $135 million? Take $100m for the trench off that, and suddenly Option X is looking like the cheapest option on the table. Do they dare to make that official government policy?

But that would take another face-saving exercise for the government. Given that they have screwed up the Asset-Sales, and the Kapiti Highway, and back-tracked on the Memorial Park, it is pretty doubtful that they are going to back track on this one as well.

denny
14 - 08 - 12

There is no doubting your maths… disregarding that, the NZTA and WRC wants to build a concrete icon to traffic engineering despite what is best for the cityscape. Option X still has great legs by allowing the improvement of traffic flow from the airport without overly buggering up the Memorial Park/Basin/Gov’t House precinct.

What comes first in an important area of the city: urban design or traffic engineering?

Maximus
14 - 08 - 12

Councilor Justin Lester (Northern Ward) has said some sensible comments over on Scoop http://wellington.scoop.co.nz/?p=47280 that:

“As a Council we have been told by NZTA that a tunnel is unaffordable at the present time given budget pressures. My response to that is two-fold:

(1) If necessary, wait until economic conditions improve and then build a tunnel when we can afford it. Don’t build a cheaper fly-over that we’ll regret;

(2) Prioritise funding as was done for the Memorial Park tunnel. We had heard similarly that funds were not available for the Memorial Park Tunnel, that it was simply unaffordable. I applaud this decision entirely, but what has changed? The financial climate hasn’t changed significantly, it’s more a case of political will shifting.

I’d like to see a similar movement in political support from a fly-over towards a tunnel.”

jeremy
14 - 08 - 12

The elephant in the room of this whole shebang is Vivian Street. Nobody ever mentions it. It doesn’t matter if they end up building a tunnel or a flyover, if it’s not two way, Wellington will still be left with a traffic sewer flowing through the centre of Te Aro for the next 50 years.

denny
14 - 08 - 12

Hey jeremy, don’t sewers work best if their contents flow in the one direction? Seriously, this might be an issue but it does not compare to a bloody great flyover at the end of Kent and Cambridge Tce’s…

sav
14 - 08 - 12

The trench has to be nzta’s priority as they need it done for the anzac anniversary – that will get done and be great. They seem to be cutting costs at the moment (Otaki expressway), so the flyover should really be put on the backburner as I don’t see how it could be a critical project. Neither should an expressway that goes from Auckland halfway to Whangarei and stops. By the time they get round to the basin hopefully we have a new government, and the trench can be extended.

davidp
15 - 08 - 12

I’ve only seen one image of the proposed park and it wasn’t useful for much. So… Will Tory street join up to Tasman St without any junction at the bypass? That’d make Tory St a lot less of a through route. Will the bypass pass under Taranaki St as well, or will there be a ground-level junction at Taranaki? Please please PLEASE say that they’ll dig tunnel for both directions so that the bypass can eventually be made bi-directional without having to dig up the park in the future.

Wellington doesn’t have a lot of inner city parks. This could be a nice improvement for Te Aro.

On a different matter… What is going on with the footpath barriers on Willis St at the Majestic block? After the accident a few weeks ago, I thought they were going to improve the barriers where they were laying the new footpath, but there aren’t any roadworks going on up there at the moment. With the barriers and turning pedestrian crossings in to controlled crossings, the Council seems to be determined to drive a high speed busway through the center of the city and couldn’t care less about pedestrians. If buses are a problem then slow them down. But Wellington is a great city to walk around and I’d like to keep it that way.

erentz
15 - 08 - 12

davidp: Going by the documents produced by NZTA the answers to your questions are… Tory St will join Tasman St without any intersection with the bypass. It will probably have an intersection with some kind of lane that does proceed through the park to Taranaki St, though this would be primarily for access to the park and designed to discourage use as a through connection (I suspect). On the basis of the $70-100 million cost they’re talking about this will not be the option that proceeds under Taranaki St, that costs more, but the report did highlight that this is the best option for future proofing as it will become difficult to build under Taranaki St in the future after the Memorial Park is complete and space that would be used for diversions and construction work is no longer free. In all options if we build the flyover then it will become impossible to link the Memorial Park tunnel to any tunnel under the Basin Reserve in future, we’re stuck with it. It’s either all tunnel now, or huge expense and disruption to rebuild the whole thing in future, the reality obviously being it would just never be built.

As for ability to convert to bidirectional flows, the tunnel will only be 3 lanes wide, 2 through lanes and one lane for merging traffic from Sussex St. It is conceivable that a eastbound tunnel could be constructed to the north in future but this would be very disruptive to the park, and would be very expensive to tunnel under Taranaki St and Cambridge/Kent Tce while keeping these operational. If you really put your mind to trying to solve the problem of a future council or government that decided this should be extended, imagine just how your going to keep the tunnel operational while digging a parallel tunnel end to end, diverting flows onto this and the temporary changes required at the intersections for this, then completing the remainder of the paralell tunnel, while going back through territory you’ve already been digging through (E.g. you’re digging twice under Taranaki/Cambridge/Kent/etc).

It’s a difficult mess, which is why we should wait until we can do it right rather than make the problem even messier. In the meantime we could be working on things that also need attention but which can be built at lower cost and incrementally, namely 1. striping cycleways everywhere, now, it’s paint for fecks sake do it, 2. improving the density of our city grid (I’m looking at you Abel Smith St) so we’re not so reliant on just one or two key streets (yes that sounds like an old fashioned plan the council long ago had but it actually makes a helluva lot of sense), 3. widening streets to future proof key routes and choke points so we’re not forced to pick just one mode we’ll support (I’m looking at you Adelaide Rd, which will never have cycle lanes now and will have an abysmally crap excuse for a proper PT ROW now that the council can’t stump up the measly $3 million to buy the property needed to preserve this option for ever), 4. improve connectedness through our ridiculously large Te Aro superblocks to make walking easier, 5. laying down proper bus priority (everywhere), followed by 6. light rail. You could do everything but light rail on that list for the price of the memorial park tunnel alone. Will that happen. Of course not. What will happen is in about 10 or 20 years these things will begin to look more obvious to the voting public and we will have new generations in the council and government and then they’ll find it hard to implement half of them because we failed to plan. That’s NZL, Inc. Reliably lagging by a generation.

davidp
15 - 08 - 12

erentz>As for ability to convert to bidirectional flows, the tunnel will only be 3 lanes wide, 2 through lanes and one lane for merging traffic from Sussex St.

What I was thinking wasn’t a bi-directional tunnel, but two tunnels next to each other. The west to east tunnel could be unused for the time being, but could be easily incorporated in to a proper two-way bypass at some future date. Surely the costs of digging two tunnels at the same time are only marginally higher than the cost of digging one… You only have to consent once, move water and electricity connections once, do one lot of plans, etc.

Why it wasn’t made two way when it was built is just stupid. We’ve got half a bypass, and half a motorway worth of traffic funneling its way through Te Aro.

Do you have a URL for the park plans? I had a quick hunt around but couldn’t find anything.

erentz
15 - 08 - 12

Check out the War Memorial Tunnel Scoping Report. It’s not the actual final park design per se, that’s obviously up to the architects. But it does discuss the roading side of the options considered. It appears we’re going with Option H from the announcements thus fair, see the first few pages of Part 11 for some high res drawings of this.

http://www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/basin-reserve/publications.html

Maximus
15 - 08 - 12

Erentz – brilliant summary, thank you for that. We really need you on the Council as you clearly have a decent grasp of the situation.

DavidP – sadly, no, the cost of building two tunnels will not be “only marginally more” than the cost of building one. Yes, I understand what you mean, and yes, there would be a massive saving in site setup costs etc, but the really big cost here will be :
A) earthmoving – machinery, time, diesel, wages etc. so: two tunnels will be twice that cost.
B) roof beams over tunnel – twice as much tunnel equals twice as much roof.
C) base slab – again, twice as much costs twice as much.
D) walls – one extra wall, so at least 50% more.

davidp
16 - 08 - 12

max>but the really big cost

So the cost is digging a big hole and then adding enough structure so that it doesn’t cave in? A tunnel is only a couple of hundred meters long and not very wide. That probably means it is about the same volume as a large basement… say the one under State Insurance, or presumably the one under the hotel on the old Post Office site where there was a honking big hole in the ground for years. Or even the sizable basement under 133 Molesworth St. Surely excavating a basement isn’t going to run much more than single figure millions?

You don’t even need to fit it out with lighting, fire suppression, or a proper road surface until it is needed. Just pop gates on either end and leave it. Or, rent it out as a space for raves.

Oh, and thanks for the link Erentz.

Maximus
16 - 08 - 12

Davidp – you really don’t work in the construction industry, do you…?
I agree that the currently oft-quoted figure of $100million is just a silly number, a stab in the proverbial dark. But no, to answer your question – digging a basement is always a very expensive part of any job.

Seamonkey Madness
16 - 08 - 12

I think what Davidp is referring to is that it will be more than twice as expensive to retrofit another tunnel onto the side of a working one, amirite?
The road closures/diversions, the extra planning/resource consent red tape to cut through, the being-extra-careful whilst building so as not to disturb the structural integrity of the existing tunnel, etc.

I’m just on the agreeing-with-Davidp side of the fence on this one. Build the damn thing, sans services (but leave corridors/ducts for them), roads and lighting, and block the bugger off until needed. They did it way back in the day for the Mt. Vic duplication (bugger, ran out of money – a lesson to be learnt there maybe? ;) )

What I’m saying is that we obviously haven’t learnt the lesson from going the cheap route with the Terrace Tunnel (3 laned and a nightmare at rush hour and most of the weekends).

I guess once we’ve gained an inch, we may as well try and dream a mile. =)

davidp
16 - 08 - 12

SMM>I think what Davidp is referring to is that it will be more than twice as expensive to retrofit another tunnel onto the side of a working one, amirite?

I hadn’t gone that far. My point is that digging two at once was probably nowhere near twice the cost of digging one and so you might as well do it now rather than later. But you make a good point which is likely to be correct.

The Terrace Tunnel is a good example. They must have put together a project team, done the geological investigations, set up the site, hired the contractors, built the piers, built up experience working with the site conditions, and then stopped half way through. And we’ve had to put up with at least 40 years worth of congestion and exciting high speed lane merges.

Now, if they decided to build the second tunnel tomorrow then they’d need to form another project team, perform another round of geological investigations just in case they got it wrong last time, go through another procurement process, spend about five years doing public consultations, do another design which probably won’t look much like the first design, and get all the workers up to speed on tunnel digging. To top it all off, I’m told the existing piers aren’t up to scratch any more and will need to be replaced. That must be way more than was saved, and illustrates NZ’s el-cheapo gaffer tape approach to infrastructure.

erentz
16 - 08 - 12

I think generally it is valid to say with these projects that it’s cheaper to do both at the same time, than as separate projects. How much cheaper depends on the exact circumstances though. Vic Park Tunnel in Auckland was a very (very very very) sad case of this:

http://transportblog.co.nz/2010/05/05/lost-opportunity-to-get-rid-of-the-victoria-park-viaduct/

In our case how much cheaper is going to be a factor mostly of what new properties we have to buy in future, buildings we have to knock down to make space during construction, complex techniques we have to use to get under busy active roadways we can’t divert, etc. Building the whole thing bidirectional now may not be sensible, but certainly it should be part of the design that it can be readily adapted to this in future. E.g. if we were to extend under Taranaki St or (hopefully, we can still dream) under the Basin, look at how you might make those parts suitable for bidirectional traffic in future, cuz those will be the pain points in future.

At the Basin Reserve end if we were fortunate enough to get a tunnel, then I’d say this means we build at the same time the parallel tunnel underneath Cambridge/Kent Tce, and better yet we make it actually functional by adding an on ramp from Kent Tce — this can be two lanes wide today, allowing SH1 eastbound traffic from Kent Tce to drop down merge left and up towards Patterson St emerging alongside the westbound tunnel. Bonus is this frees up lots of nice space for lightrail/busway to flow around the eastern edge of the Basin. In future wqhen ready to extend you have the unused stub of this tunnel at the western side of Cambridge Tce to work from without needing to interrupt any traffic. When up and running you can then look at remediating the onramp from Kent Tce, reducing it to one lane, maybe physically narrowing it, which it could be designed up front to be ready for.

Similarly at Taranaki St if we were fortunate enough with this proposal to have the Memorial Park tunnel come out west of Tarnaki St (I know we’re still dreaming) then the works under Taranaki St at this time should cater for a future eastbound tunnel, so we don’t have to mess with Taranaki St in future. Additionally we probably need to add some ability to divert from the westbound tunnel into a future eastbound tunnel temporarily here to facilitate burying the remaining section of the bypass.

@Maximus, haha me on the Council. Given we have a mad keen cyclist mayor and I don’t think I’ve seen one new bike lane, sharrows, or _proper_ bike box laid down since she got in, I don’t think I would do well with this crowd. Touched tho. ;)

Alan
17 - 08 - 12

Some of you may not have noticed the NZTA has posted an official response to the Memorial Park trench proposal. The wording may surprise you:
NZTA Wellington state highways manager Rod James says that the NZTA is delighted to be working so closely with the Ministry of Culture and Heritage and the Wellington City Council on such a significant project. Mr James says the NZTA’s principal role will be to enable the park’s creation by undergrounding Buckle Street.

“Putting Buckle Street underground will improve the setting of the National War Memorial by removing traffic and opening the area up for the development of a park.”

“The project will be developed to complement other planned transport improvements between the Terrace and Mt Vic tunnels. Decisions on which option will be progressed in the Basin Reserve area will be announced late next week.

“When we sought feedback from the public last year on our proposed transport improvements, the public told us that undergrounding Buckle Street to facilitate the development of Memorial Park was the prefered option for this section, and this announcement means that this will soon become a reality.”

“The entire project will take approximately two years to complete. Buckle Street will be put into a trench and covered over so that the new Memorial Park can be built on top. Work to temporarily relocate Buckle Street will begin later this year, and the permanent undergrounding will begin in early 2013.”

Mr James also said that the NZTA would ensure that the planned works and temporary road would be designed to minimise disruption, both to area residents and the approximately 30,000 vehicles that use this road every day.

Maximus
17 - 08 - 12

Aaaaaaaand, it’s official. NZTA have made the bold move, and gone for a Flyover: Option A
http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/wellington-central/7492396/NZTA-confirms-Basin-Reserve-flyover-plan

Julian
17 - 08 - 12

The Option X proposal was ridiculous. It wouldn’t fit and didn’t deal with the problems.