Next Harbour crossing must include rail, walking and cycling options

The Aucklander reported today that the Minister of Transport has asked consultants to conduct a study into whether the next Harbour crossing for Auckland should be a bridge or a tunnel.*

Parallel tunnels for road and rail going under the Harbour are the preferred option that was selected by various stakeholders  (including the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) and the Auckland Regional Transport Authority) last year. The agencies chose this option after an exhaustive study which considered 159 options, including some truly original ones like  a tunneled connection all the way out to Glen Innes and a bridge from Pt Chevalier.

Obviously, the tunnels wouldn’t be suitable for pedestrians/cyclists. However, the agencies felt that once the tunnels had been built this would take enough traffic off the current bridge that some lanes could be converted into a walk/cycle way.

More recently, however, a study by an independent group called Anzac Centenary Bridge 2015 has suggested that a better solution might be to build a second bridge across the Harbour. Their vision is for a 10 lane bridge which would also carry light rail and have walking and cycling facilities. They propose to pay the construction costs through dismantling the current bridge and redeveloping the land which would be freed up by removing the motorway on-ramps.

Personally, I don’t really mind whether we build a bridge or a tunnel. My main concerns are that whichever crossing we choose it should:

  1. not be built until it is truly needed – the NZTA seems to be giving quite confusing and mixed messages about how much life there is left in the current bridge structure. Auckland has a lot of major and urgent transport projects to build (like the CBD rail loop) so we don’t want to invest billions in an unnecessary second crossing before we have to
  2. include an extension of the Auckland rail system to the North Shore (this might stop at Onewa at first and then slowly be extended further north as needed)
  3. have room for cyclists and pedestrians
  4. not have a major negative impact on the views and atmosphere of the Wynyward Point area in central Auckland (where the bridge would start) or Onewa Rd area on the North Shore (where both would finish)

What do you think? Would you prefer a bridge or a tunnel?

*  If you don’t live in Auckland and you’re wondering why we need a second crossing at all. The answer is that recently NZTA has begun signalling that the current bridge may only have another 20-40 years of life left before it becomes too unsafe for high volumes of traffic to use.

27 thoughts on “Next Harbour crossing must include rail, walking and cycling options

  1. I think light rail over a new bridge connecting into the bus-way and converting the bus-way into a light-rail line would be the best solution, furthermore this could connected off at the Wynyard Quater and follow through to Britomart… One can only dream of such a day.

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  2. Personally, I am a fan of a bridge as opposed to a tunnel for a number of reasons

    1) Cost: When one looks at constructing a new bridge, I would hazard a guess that it would be about half the price of building a new tunnel – not only that, but we can pack a lot more into that cheaper bridge as well; my ideal bridge would have twin heavy rail lines, ten vehicular lanes, a cycle facility and a footpath all over two decks (railway lines, cycle facility and footpath on the bottom deck, and the ten vehicular lanes on the top deck). Indeed, one could even design it for an additional two heavy rail lines without actually having to build them yet. By spending only $1.5 billion on the bridge, we have just gotten another $1.5 billion to spend on the railway line, and if we do things like the Western Australians, then we could get ourselves a railway line to Orewa and a new crossing all for the cost of the tunnel proposal.

    2) Freight: Ideally, we want to design our North Shore railway line to eventually link up to the North Auckland Line. One of the reasons why trucks are more popular for shipping freight from Northland as opposed to rail is because a truck can do Whangarei to Auckland in three hours; the train takes seven. Even if one brought the line up to scratch maintenance wise, it would take around five hours for a freight train to get from Auckland to Whangarei – the fundamental problem is that while the present alignment was suitable in the 1880s, it is not suitable today. Obviously, if we have freight trains, we are going to have diesel locomotives and we want a crossing that can handle diesel locomotives. With such a link, we would also likely see DMUs from Wellsford and Whangarei.

    3) Overall visual appeal: My ideal plan would also see the demolition of the current Auckland Harbour Bridge, which to be honest looks like a cheap copy of what Bradfield designed for Sydney back in the 1920s. We could have a bridge that looks stunning and becomes a true part of Auckland, like what the Sydney Harbour Bridge does for Sydney, the Tower Bridge for London, the
    Golden Gate Bridge for San Francisco and so on.

    Obviously, one of the big problems is getting the grade right. We are already designing railway infrastructure that is more akin to a rollercoaster than a railway line (the CBD Tunnel proposal includes a 1 in 26 grade, which might mean that getting roughly off-the-shelf EMUs is going to be a problem).

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  3. The most important thing of all is making sure that there is a proper rail connection. It MUST be heavy rail not light rail. If you go for just light rail you are screwing yourself over in the long term. If you did build only light rail then there would be no potential for rail freight, no potential to link up with the existing rail line near Welsford, it would have a lower capacity, it would be incompatible with the existing rail network in Auckland. Even if you had light rail units that could work on the rest of the network thats not a good idea either. I don’t think it’s smart to have a light rail unit with possibly a maximum capacity of 200 people taking up a slot when it could potentially have a heavy rail train of 1000 people or more.

    I’m worried about this anzac bridge idea, because it only seems to have light rail. So I say go for the tunnel, unless it is made absolutely clear that any bridge has heavy rail.

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  4. Go for a tunnel with heavy rail (including car storage)and for cars, trucks, etc. Then just use the existing bridge for cycling and light rail or tram systems linking with Greater Auckland.

    I do hope some of these discussions involve a little bit of original lateral thinking and vision. Nah. That might transfer money out of the profiteers into Auckland’s wellbeing. Can’t have that…

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  5. I’m a fan of doing nothing in the short-to-medium term because traffic across the harbour bridge is actually declining.

    In the longer term I think we’ll need to replace the clip-ons, plus eventually the Northern Busway will hit capacity and need upgrading to heavy rail.

    So a rail tunnel in 2040, and I don’t think we’ll ever need a road tunnel.

    The bridge idea is just stupid – surely the point of another harbour crossing would be to get ANOTHER harbour crossing.

    More thoughts here: http://transportblog.co.nz/2010/06/24/the-harbour-crossing-debate/

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  6. Of course tunnels are the preferred option – especially in a city subject to high risk of earthquake, volcanic eruption and tsunami.
    People just love driving into tunnels during disaster. However, given that both ends will be below sea level in the event of a tsunami they won’t be able to. Those who got our of New Orleans during Katrina did so by driving on elevated highways.

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  7. Hey Owen, how did the whole bridge v tunnel thing work out in the 1989 San Francisco earthquake?

    From memory the Bay Bridge was seriously damaged but the BART tunnels were fine, and kept the city going.

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  8. “The bridge idea is just stupid – surely the point of another harbour crossing would be to get ANOTHER harbour crossing.”

    So we end up needing our own version of the Warringah Freeway on the North Shore – this place is turning into Sydney more and more by the day. We already have an alternative harbour crossing; it is at the Upper Harbour Highway if we really need it (and we have coped for fifty years with the current structure, so I don’t really think that is a problem), and if push came to shove, there is always the Coatesville-Riverhead Highway.

    “From memory the Bay Bridge was seriously damaged but the BART tunnels were fine, and kept the city going.”

    The Bay Bridge dates from the 1930s, with the BART tunnels dating from the 1970s – there is a good explanation as to why the bridge had damage while the tunnels were fine.

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  9. Who said we need road tunnels john-ston? You know for a fact that I have said on many occasions that my opinion is that we’ll never need additional road lanes across the Waitemata Harbour.

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  10. “Who said we need road tunnels john-ston? You know for a fact that I have said on many occasions that my opinion is that we’ll never need additional road lanes across the Waitemata Harbour.”

    It was in response to your another crossing comment – it would be mad to have two harbour crossings in such close proximity to each other, since you would need that number of lanes on either side of the crossings, and that would mean a fourteen lane motorway on the North Shore.

    We need a replacement crossing, not another crossing – one crossing is enough (and to be honest, I would even be happy with just eight vehicular lanes), it is just that there are far too many faults with the present one.

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  11. While I agree that another road crossing is unnecessary, if you actually have an in depth look at NZTA’s official proposal you wouldn’t actually have your 14 lane highway anywhere. Basically SH1 would start heading underground just south of Esmonde Road, while the existing motorway south of Esmonde Road would only link with south-facing ramps at Onewa Rd and Esmonde Road.

    At the southern end, the existing motorway would only link with Fanshawe Street and Shelly Beach Road (perhaps Cook St I can’t remember). The SH1 tunnel would have its first exits south of the harbour being SH16 port, SH west and then Gillies Ave. So there wouldn’t actually be anywhere the two roads “double-up” to create one 14 lane wide bit of motorway. Effectively the existing road becomes a local link between Takapuna/Northcote and the CBD/Ponsonby, while the new SH1 tunnel is an express road – no exits between Esmonde Road and Sh16.

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  12. So we are magically going to go from eight lanes from north of Esmonde Road through to fourteen lanes without creating the mother of all bottlenecks? Unless you want the mother of all bottlenecks, there is going to be a need to construct something like the Warringah Freeway, and I don’t think that the folks on the Shore would be pleased with that.

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  13. Well I always thought the plan would be that there was no link between the existing harbour bridge and SH1 north of Esmonde Road (in that if you went over the bridge you would HAVE TO get off at Onewa or Esmonde Road.

    However, taking another look at the diagram: http://www.nzta.govt.nz/network/projects/sh1-additional-waitemata-harbour-crossing-project/docs/sh1-waitemata-phase-2-map-preferred-option.pdf

    It seems as though there would be that link between the existing bridge and SH1 north of Esmonde. So your 14 lane motorway might happen, in which case I’ll add that reason to all the others for why it’s stupid to even think about another road crossing.

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  14. The best way to answer the challenges is to look at some facts about international cities, their wealth, their density, their congestion, their transit market share etc in this presentation:

    http://www.vimeo.com/12896719

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  15. Owen, it’s difficult to take that seriously when the title page is the biggest and most horrific looking motorway interchange I’ve ever seen!

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  16. “There are proposals to expand the restrictive land use regulations and anti-automobile policies that have been adopted in places like Portland (Oregon), California, Seattle and other areas to the rest of the nation. ”

    hahaha. oh no, “restrictive land use regulations” aaahahahahha “anti-automobile policies” oh god my siides, they hurt they huuurt aaahahahha

    get real, Owen.

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  17. LOL Rimu, yeah they never care to restate all the subsidies and regulations that create sprawl. You just need to read a District Plan to work out that 99% of the rules relate to enforcing low density, auto-oriented development.

    Minimum lot sizes – check
    Maximum building heights – check
    Minimum parking requirements – check
    Maximum site coverage – check
    Building setbacks – check

    I could go on forever….

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  18. Except of course that if you really want to get people to use public transport, then the main thing you have to do is provide a public transportation service as the houses go up, and not five or ten years later. We have seen the Hutt Valley turn from farmland to suburbia, and because there was the public transport system in place it got used. We have seen Gosford turn from a small town in New South Wales to a centre of a quarter of a million people – it is also the busiest non suburban railway station in New South Wales (has over 5,000 passengers a day). We have seen Caboolture turn from a small village north of Brisbane to a suburb of Brisbane, and its railway station is the fifth busiest suburban station in Brisbane (two of the other four are also toward the edges of Brisbane, being Petrie and Ferny Grove).

    It is actually interesting to note that in this part of the world, some of the busiest railway stations happen to be on the edge of suburbia.

    In terms of the planning regulations point, do those exist in the “problem” centres in the United States? I know that Houston has no regulations (and I mean none at all), and I am pretty sure that there are other centres that would be in a similar situation.

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  19. That depends on whether you view public transport patronage as the “means” or the “ends” john-ston. Sometimes I think you are only concerned about PT patronage being the “ends”, whereas actually it’s a useful measure towards creating a more efficient, livable and sustainable city.

    But that does require other stuff too.

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  20. Jarbs, if public transport is high, then it means that it is being well used, no?

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  21. What makes Houston a problem city? It had no housing bubble and no bust.
    You can buy a section for US$30,000 and a house for $140,000.
    It has one of the most rapidly growing economies in the US and has the most rapidly growing employment.
    Employment is a good measure because it means the city is attractive to both employers and employees.
    The new neighbourhoods do have land use controls but they are designed and managed by residents associations. Rather like the body corporates in high rise apartments. (vertical gated communities).
    Interesting to see the panic reaction to the facts about density, transport and wealth generation.
    Facts are scary and make some people quite hysterical.

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  22. What makes Houston a problem city? It had no housing bubble and no bust.

    Bad wording on my part; I was making a side point about Houston having no planning regulations whatsoever, I did not mean to refer to Houston as a problem city. What I wanted to know is whether or not the list of regulations that Jarbury posted above applied in centres such as Portland or not.

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  23. Portland is a Smart Growth (ie Dense Thinking) city and so has minimum density rules, maximum parking requirements, minimum setbacks in an attempt to force the residents of Portland to become an intensified city.

    The reality is that the much touted statistics of Portland (and Vancouver) apply only to the central area and are largely irrelevant to the vast majority of the urban population who live ordinary suburban lives.
    An Australian commentary on the latest “cultural cringe” is here.

    http://www.newgeography.com/content/001626-planning’s-cultural-cringe

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  24. Portland is a Smart Growth (ie Dense Thinking) city and so has minimum density rules, maximum parking requirements, minimum setbacks in an attempt to force the residents of Portland to become an intensified city.

    With all due respect Owen, I know all that – I have taken a reasonably good look at Demographia in my time, and I do agree with the housing affordability being caused by excessive planning restrictions problem (as an aside, one of the fundamental things that people who wish to force density forget is that to get the land to do a decent medium density development can take decades – what I like to call the “old granny who won’t sell problem”).

    What I think we would all like to know is if there are rules in places like Portland for minimum lot sizes, maximum building heights, &c.

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  25. As I have indicated (and others have spelled out) we need to be careful about what we define as Portland.

    Old developments are like most in the US.
    As part of the Smart Growth planning many areas were set aside for dense developoment or redevelopment and many of them had maximum parking requirements etc. The trouble was the developers would not develop them and they remained as large pastures around the transit centres while regular developments started on the rim.

    But in general, you will find both sets of approached depending on where you look.

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