$2 million to “traffic calm” a road without cars? [Updated]

EsplanadeNote – Monday update, with major amendment of project costs – see below 

Yes, that’s what it takes if one insists that cars should be allowed on a road that has been closed to cars, and used exclusively by walkers, cyclists and  horses  since 2010. The Esplanade on Waiheke was closed to motorised traffic as a trial in response to public demand. But now, a very expensive plan is being drawn up to  reconstruct the road and its seawall to allow for two way vehicle traffic, including ‘traffic calming measures’.

The cost of the project has been estimated to be at least $2m. It’s worrying that Auckland Transport sees fit to recommend this spending on a minor, secondary road, ahead of other more important and urgent road priorities on the island.  Suffice to say that the Waiheke Local Board is leading this ill conceived project, having given $180,000 of their local board funding to kick-start the opening of Esplanade to car traffic.

The road is an old piece of infrastructure built originally to access a wharf (now long gone). It was never built for two way car traffic and over the years has been increasingly vulnerable to erosion from the sea and slips from the cliffs above. It is claimed by some to be a major scenic route for car drivers, but in reality is mostly valued as a fishing spot and quiet route for walking and cycling, including by children travelling to all the local schools which are close to the eastern end of the road. The road has therefore received minimal maintenance, commensurate with it’s low status in the island’s road network for motor vehicles.

The wider Auckland region also has an interest in The Esplanade, as it was promoted as attraction in the National Cycle Trail bid for Waiheke. While other, recently approved National Cycle Trails have been harvesting a bonanza of visitors and tourist dollars for their regions, the Auckland and Waiheke bids have been gestating in AT, pending application to Wellington’s Cycle Trail Team. The plan to destroy the distinctive character of The Esplanade created by its exclusive use by walkers, cyclists and horses is regrettable in terms of Waiheke’s Cycle Trail bid.

A public meeting is to be held at 3pm, Saturday 13 April at the Ostend Memorial Hall to discuss the proposed work for The Esplanade and its upgrade for full car access. Representatives from the Waiheke Local Board and Auckland Transport have been invited. Further information (by Cycle Action Waiheke, one of the groups opposed to the reopening) is here, explaining why this project makes little sense.

Monday updateAuckland Transport were supplied with a copy of this blog, and advise that the costs referred to above, which we obtained from a recent report in the Gulf News, (and, we assume, from an earlier AT report to the Local Board) are out of date.

AT has completed a major review of the project, and the costs are now calculated to be $514,771 (This is made up of : Preliminary & General – $65,895; Foreshore protection –  $199,816; Existing Sea Wall Protection – $114,833;  Traffic Calming Works – $ 134,226) 

We understand that Saturday’s meeting was well attended (including Green MP’s Denise Roche and Julie Anne Genter, and Local Board Member, Don McKenzie). The updated costs were tabled. The meeting resolved:

  • That this meeting of in excess of 150 people requests the Waiheke Local Board to keep the Esplanade closed to motor vehicles (except for emergencies) until a referendum is held on the subject.
  • That this meeting requests the Waiheke Local Board to agree to defer the spending of Local Board Discretionary funding of $134,000 for traffic calming until a public discussion and referendum is held and that there is input to the text of the referendum from the wider community.
  • That this meeting calls for those with a passion for this issue to organise themselves to continue with community information, engagement and advocacy.

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