Which motorway project(s) would you cut?

So, the Minister of Finance has confirmed its full steam ahead with the national motorway gamble. Even the Transport Minister has made it clear that he will not consider cutting the budget for the poster-child of uneconomic motorways, the Puhoi to Wellsford ‘Holiday Highway,’ after the quake. Government cabinet papers also say that the government is not likely to commit to funding any major new rail project in Auckland over the next 10 years. That presumably includes the CBD rail loop.

It really is becoming hard to believe the Transport Minister’s staunch commitment to the ‘Holiday Highway.’ The earthquake gave him an opportunity to downsize this uneconomic project without losing face. Given its poor business case and the soaring oil prices it seems logical he would have grasped eagerly at the chance.

Maybe it’s the lack of joined-up thinking?

Bill English, in response to my questions in the house, has indicated he’s happy to let the market sort out New Zealand’s dependence on oil in the absence of developing a Government plan.

I find it a little rich that he doesn’t want to put even a little bit of strategic thought into it, when he acknowledges our significant economic vulnerability to volatile and high oil prices but is prepared to sign off on billions of dollars of motorway spending, furthering New Zealand’s oil addiction.

The fastest way we could reduce our dependence on oil is to re-direct the massive motorway funds to a balanced transport budget that invests more in public transport, car-sharing and active transport.

If you were Finance Minister for a day what project(s) would you cut to re-direct transport funds?

Auckland Projects

  • Waterview & widening of SH16 – construction meant to start at end of this year: approx $2 billion
  • Victoria Park Tunnel – in progress: $360 million
  • Newmarket Viaduct – in progress: $225 million
  • Puhoi to Wellsford – Construction would start in 2014. However, the Government has already put a significant amount ($100 million) into planning the project: $2.1 billion.
  • Penlink – likely to start in next few years. Much of the funds for this will come from Auckland Council, however: $201 million.
  • AMETI – this project requires a mixture of Auckland Council and government funds. Currently in progress: $430 million over the next 10 years.

Outside Auckland

  • Widening Waikato expressway – This project is ongoing until 2019. Some parts have already been built, others are being designed: $2.4 billion.
  • Wellington Northern Corridor: $2.4 billion (Transmission Gully – Construction proposed to start in 2014: $1.025 billion)
  • Christchurch motorways – this project is obviously going to change substantially due to the earthquake. Cost will likely be at least $400 million
  • Tauranga Eastern Link – construction will start in 2011: $455 million

 

25 thoughts on “Which motorway project(s) would you cut?

  1. Waterview! although I admit that something has to be done about the traffic coming off SH20.

    Also Puhoi to wellsford, Transmission Gully…. I really don’t know enough about the Tauranga projects to comment. And I would keep the Waikato Expressway so I can go climbing in the weekends easily :)

    Selfish? Well, it’s about as good as the Minister’s justification for building Puhoi to Wellsford right…

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  2. Leave it up to the market then. No more government money for roads. Let private companies build roads and charge for them. I’ll bet anyone a six-pack not a single road will get built.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0 (+5)

  3. Keep Transmission Gully. I have heard all manner of foolishness around this now and the fact that this city needs an alternate ROUTE not an emergency goatpath, has to be considered properly in terms of long term threats to the current SH1 route, which is only 2 meters above sea level in places.

    The development of hill dwelling suburbs and infrastructure along that path will serve us better when the tides rise over the next 100 years.

    BJ

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  4. Trouble with Transmission Gully is that it just feeds into/out of the Ngauranga Gorge and the Kaiwharawhara stretches of the motorway, which are the most likely bits to go down in an earthquake or be drowned by sea level rise.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0 (+2)

  5. There is back of hills access through to Tawa area.

    The fact is that the reclaimed land on which the railroad sits will almost certainly be inundated, and SH2 will be impassable, much less any trek around the other side of Eastbourne.

    The CBD of Wellington is accessible through the hills or the gorge. It is a difficult place at best but secondary roads through to Johnsonville and Tawa from the CBD do exist….

    What Wellington does for an Airport after the AGW fully affects us I have NO idea. I think Wellington winds up largely abandoned or back up the hills. However all the displaced people will need a place to go and having infrastructure already built IN the hills is a precaution that isn’t wasted.

    respectfully
    BJ

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  6. If you were Finance Minister for a day what project(s) would you cut to re-direct transport funds?

    I wouldn’t cut any – instead, I would be increasing the level of funds available for transport investment. Look at the level of transport investment that is going on in Brisbane at the moment – they are building about two motorways, three busways and a railway line. This comes after amplification of four railway lines, the construction of a motorway tunnel under the Brisbane River, the construction of two busways, and the extension of a railway line.

    New Zealand is too cheap when it comes to infrastructure, and we suffer the consequences of it.

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  7. Gareth is quite right: •Christchurch motorways – this project is obviously going to change substantially due to the earthquake.

    With the shutdown of the CBD and it’s on-way system and the relocation of CBD offices to modern business parks on the periphery of the city the motorway project needs to be implemented ultrafast and to accomodate the relocation of the eastern suburbs to Prestons, Pegasus and Lincoln/Rolleston it the project needs to be hugely expanded.

    On the two previous occasions that Canterbury subsidised North Island roads Auckland eventually paid the money back (check the yearbooks and appendices to the parliamentary journals before leaping in with an urban legend response) but this time we can’t afford to wait ten or twenty years to get back the $400m we donated to Auckland since 2003 when we generously deferred the restart of work on the Christchurch motorways by seven years.

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  8. Gareth – you always get stuck into the Puhoi to Wellsford highway because you say it’s mainly so people can go on holiday.

    So what would you do about death after death after death after death on this road? – like
    2 Dead last night
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10714315
    2 dead 5 April 2010
    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/AK1004/S00047.htm
    Serious Crash 21 Jan 2011 (and 29 Jan)
    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/AK1101/S00749/dome-valley-clears.htm
    Fatal – 19 December 2010
    http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/road-reopens-in-dome-valley-following-fatal-crash-3979449
    29 December 2010
    http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/sh1-closed-near-dome-valley-after-three-car-crash-3988394

    Yet when you criticise it, you seldom mention you also back a “holiday highway” for the same piece of road costing over half a billion dollars.

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  9. @photonz1 9:46 AM

    The reason Gareth and others like me get stuck into the Puhoi-Wellsford holiday highway proposal is not because it is mainly so people can go on holiday. The reason for criticism of this proposal is because it will cost far more than the economic benefits it will bring.

    And, yes, I agree there are parts of SH1 between Puhoi and Wellsford that are extremely hazardous and need major improvement in the interest of road safety. But that can be achieved for about $300K.

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  10. I dunno what it looks like North of Auckland but the NZ habit of making the speed limit 100 KPH (effectively 65 MPH) in each direction with lanes of traffic that are separated by a strip of paint… usually… is a bit risky.

    Any similar road I recall from back in the USA has a limit of 55 MPH… or less (NEVER was higher than that in all my memory). Which would be about 90 or 85 kph here. We reckon the higher speed too hazardous for those conditions and in general that set of limits is obeyed more uniformly than limits on the limited access divided roads… because we know in our gut there’s a bigger risk involved.

    I am no stranger to fast driving having crossed the US in less than 3 days, and regularly averaged trips in the 80 MPH range… but it gives me real concerns when I set off down those roads knowing as I do that the drivers who share them with me have in general, less knowledge of the laws of physics than they do of the absurd right-turn-rule here.

    The traffic NEEDS to be separated, physically, at those speeds… and if there is no separation feasible in the short run, the speeds have to be reduced… and the speed limit for cars and trucks needs to be exactly the same.

    Then there needs to be a better rail alternative to using cars to get everywhere, including the towns through the Northland, as one of the real blessings of rail is its safety and the ability to do other things while traveling.

    BJ

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  11. toad – You can improve it for $300k?

    That’s about half a Billion dollars less than what Gareth was proposing.

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  12. I guess it depends what improvements you make. Sure, to get it to the standard BJ suggests at 10:10 AM above would cost significantly more than my figure.

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  13. bj – A passenger railway to Whangarei (population 50,000?) would be not be financially viable.

    I recently drove the road in question and was shocked at the state of it for the traffic volume.

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  14. “The reason Gareth and others like me get stuck into the Puhoi-Wellsford holiday highway proposal is not because it is mainly so people can go on holiday. The reason for criticism of this proposal is because it will cost far more than the economic benefits it will bring.”

    You could have said the same about the Kaimai road when it was built.
    Looking at the sleepy hollow that was Tauranga before then the cost benefit ratio would have been just as bad..

    To those who live in Northland it is a painful and dangerous obstacle to travel and development of industry and employment in Northland.

    As soon as I hear slogans like Holiday high way, bludging beneficiaries or fart tax I get annoyed. It means people are trying to cut short any argument against their position by appealing to knee jerk pre-conceptions..

    Wed should be taking the opportunity, now, to improve all our infrastructure.

    Freight rail around Northland with a passenger car attached or railcars are possible if the price of fuel doubles. Which it will.

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  15. Shocked by the state for the traffic volume. So it was really bad and there were a LOT of people driving on it? Somewhat undercuts the idea that the railway cannot work…

    A railway though – not just a “passenger” railway – The population of Northland is 150,000 , Whangarei is about what you said.

    I don’t know how it is organized up there, had to look up Whangarei, but I wonder how the costs are somehow prohibitive for this.

    The layout reminds me of Easthampton and Southampton on the East end of Long Island where I grew up. The trains do run out there. The population is less than half of Whangarei… in the winter. The trains from NYC on the weekends in the summer are pretty well occupied and the population seems to increase by a factor of 10. Not sure of the similarity’s limits… as there is also 4 lane limited access highway as far as Shinnecock. The roads out there are… for the volume of summer traffic… shocking. The train is often preferred, and faster from the city.

    My wife hails from Russia. Lower traffic volumes are supported by rail there too, with small trains serving small communities on a fairly regular basis and of course, fewer cars and difficult roads.

    Different arrangements. NZ makes it difficult for rail… both in the nature of the island topography itself, and I think also in the cultural mindset.

    Maybe… the rail viability question has to be understood, and I won’t say I do.

    The poor safety of having a 100 KPH limit on a two lane road without a divider however, is clearly understood. New Zealand is ill served by this.

    :-)

    BJ

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  16. bj says “Shocked by the state for the traffic volume. So it was really bad and there were a LOT of people driving on it? Somewhat undercuts the idea that the railway cannot work…”

    And you’re going to build railway lines to all the different places they’re going, with their plumbing tools, loads of sheep, boats, caravans, etc.?

    And what are you going to do as the railway doesn’t even go down through main centres – Warkworth Orwea, Whangaparaoa. It doesn’t even go to North Shore or across the harbour – it goes way over to Helensville.

    NZ is probably the worst country in the world for viability of railway – low population, low population density, steep topography, separate islands etc.

    If rail is practical and fianancially feasible, I’m all for it.

    For most of NZ, it’s neither.

    When I worked for the railways in the 80s we were told there was just a single passenger service on the planet that ran at a profit (can’t remember which one – big city somewhere).

    If there’s not enough people to run any more than a skeleton service between major cities on existing lines, then minor cities requiring a new lines don’t stand much of a change.

    Rail needs to concentrate on where it IS efficient – Aucland city, Wellington, probably Hamilton – Auckland, and bulk loads like West Coast Coal to Lyttelton, Fonterra factories to wports etc.

    It shouldn’t be put where it is very innefficient. That’s where buses come in.

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  17. Don’t know Photonz… I can see it working if there are connections and accommodations.

    I don’t know what people are doing that causes them to travel to and from Northland destinations, but if the volume of traffic is as you mention it is clear that a lot of people are doing it. Not locals. If there are trucks on that road, there is freight. If it looks un-economic it might be, but I am not convinced that it has to be.

    I can’t contribute much not knowing that region at all. The improvements needed to the roads however, aren’t free. The choice of Joyce is to do roads even where they are not needed or wanted… so I don’t trust the current process at all.

    respectfully
    BJ

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  18. bj – the point is you could spend a fortune on building a new rail line, and you won’t make much difference to the traffic – you won’t get rid of the boaties, the holiday makers, the sheep trucks, the plumbers and tradesmen, builders etc.

    The train won’t take poeple who live off the main route, or are going to places off the main route, or who the timetable doesn’t suit, or those in without loads of spare time, or those who want to go to a number of Auckland destination, or a number of Northland destinations.

    It might take off a small number of people who just happen to want to go from near one station, to near another, in a slow time, at the very time the train is going, and not do anything else when they get there, and haven’t got much gear to take with them.

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  19. Maybe… the rail viability question has to be understood, and I won’t say I do.

    The issue with rail to Northland is the alignment – it is far less direct than road, and as a result the trains are much slower. A freight train takes about seven hours to get from Westfield Yard through to Whangarei, while a truck can do that trip in less than half the time. Even when passenger services did the Auckland to Whangarei run, the least amount of time they took nearly five hours with the Fiat Railcars. If one wanted to look at rail as a serious alternative for Northland, then one is going to need to realign it to suit – and that is going to cost more than the so-called “Holiday Highway”

    I do think at this stage though, there only needs to be an extension from Puhoi through to Warkworth. About 40% of the traffic turns off at Warkworth, and the levels of traffic north of Warkworth are reasonable for a two lane single carriageway road.

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  20. “A freight train takes about seven hours to get from Westfield Yard through to Whangarei, while a truck can do that trip in less than half the time.”

    If you think it takes less than 12 hours door to door to truck something to Whangarei you have not done it.

    We were able to show that a small ro-ro ship a few years ago would save so much time and fuel that even the trucking firms were interested.

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  21. “About 40% of the traffic turns off at Warkworth, and the levels of traffic north of Warkworth are reasonable for a two lane single carriageway road.”

    Typical Auckland centric thinking.

    The holiday traffic and commuters turn off at Warkworth. those who use it for work go all the way. The road is inadequate for the traffic all the way to Whangarei. Especially compared with almost deserted straight motorways in the South Island or the Kaimai road.

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  22. Typical Auckland centric thinking.

    Nothing about Auckland centric thinking; the AADT of State Highway One south of Warkworth is 16,000; north of Warkworth it is 10,000.

    The holiday traffic and commuters turn off at Warkworth. those who use it for work go all the way. The road is inadequate for the traffic all the way to Whangarei. Especially compared with almost deserted straight motorways in the South Island or the Kaimai road.

    8000 to 10,000 vehicles a day (which is about the average for Warkworth to Whangarei) can cope with a two lane single carriageway road. I’ll agree that there are issues with the alignment and perhaps some improvements should be forthcoming.

    If you think it takes less than 12 hours door to door to truck something to Whangarei you have not done it.

    We were able to show that a small ro-ro ship a few years ago would save so much time and fuel that even the trucking firms were interested.

    In which case there is an issue with the trucking industry and its level of efficiency.

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  23. “Rail needs to concentrate on where it IS efficient – Aucland city, Wellington, probably Hamilton – Auckland, and bulk loads like West Coast Coal to Lyttelton, Fonterra factories to wports etc.”

    Auckland city to NZ’s potential best deep water port.
    Shipping easily beats rail on all those longer distance routes. Except, obviously, Auckland to Hamilton.

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  24. Part of the benefits of rail and shipping is the roads we do not have to build, the lower costs of road maintainance, the lower expenditure of overseas income on fossil fuels and the lower overall costs of the vehicles.

    In the same way as the benefits of ACC is the legal, medical and insurance costs business does not have to cover for an American style system.

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  25. john-ston: “In which case there is an issue with the trucking industry and its level of efficiency.”

    Come to think of it, the trucking industry – a key player in lobbying for the Holiday Highway – is practically glutted and prone to repeat health & safety violations.

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