It’s been a long time coming, but on the 4th of August, Auckland Transport at last announced its preferred route for Section 4 of the Glen Innes to Tamaki Shared Path (GI2TD). The immediate response from much of the bike community was ‘…huh?’ The decision-making process had been, as far as the public was concerned, a black box – so, naturally, everyone is eager to know how and why the choice was made.
This blog post is a placeholder: we plan to host a public meeting in early September to allow AT to present fully on the plan for Section 4, along with two directly linked projects. The big picture for GI2TD includes:
- easy, safe access across the Ngapipi/Tamaki Drive Bridge via new clip-on cycle lanes, and
- protected cycle lanes on Tamaki Drive.
Work begins 21 August on signalising the Ngapipi Rd/Tamaki Drive intersection (a notorious black spot and the focus of a long-running and widely shared campaign by Bike Auckland), so that’ll be covered too.
Context for Section 4 of GI2TD
Anticipation for the great eastern cycleway is building – and that’s just among those who know about it! Wait until others (here and overseas) learn about this 7km route within easy reach of the City Centre, traversing bush outlooks and harbour boardwalks, with city panoramas and soaring bridges by Monk McKenzie, the designers of Lightpath. For those who don’t know which part of town we’re talking about, this is the great sweep of it.
Of course, this overview – still on AT’s project page – will need updating now that Section 4 (from Orakei Station to Tamaki Drive) has been announced. Here’s what AT’s media release said:
The route is being made public ahead of consultation in September on this section of the seven kilometre path.
The shared walking and cycling path will take people from Merton Road near Glen Innes Station to Tamaki Drive, connecting Auckland’s eastern suburbs to the Waitemat? Harbour.
Section four starts at Orakei Basin near the new Orakei Village development, crosses the Orakei Road bridge and follows the eastern edge of Hobson Bay on a structure, completely separate to Ngapipi Road. It joins Ngapipi Road just south of the boat sheds and provides a safe connection to Tamaki Drive at the Ngapipi Road intersection, that will soon become signalised with traffic lights.
Eight potential routes were evaluated and this one was selected following a robust process involving key stakeholders and the community.
And AT provided this map of its preferred route.
You may have noticed that AT forgot to include Bike Auckland in the media release. I was surprised by this, as they are usually very generous in including comments from us in cycling project announcements. I was also disappointed, as Bike Auckland has been meeting montly with AT and NZTA in workshops called by Bike Auckland to keep us in touch with progress on this particular project.
Background to the decision
AT began to investigate Section 4 in October last year. From our perspective, it’s been a frustratingly drawn-out exercise. AT kept us sidelined while 14 experts took their time to investigate, swap notes, audit, report, and rate and assess an ever-expanding series of route options.
In May this year, AT invited the Orakei Local Board, the Outboard Boating Club, Bike Auckland and other stakeholders to a quick 30 minute report on their initial assessment of the 10 options. The project consultants MWH/Stanton had produced a highly detailed multi-criteria assessment – but this was not given to us at the meeting.
The most compelling news from that meeting was that none of the options could be achieved within the $20m budget available for Section 4. The options ranged from:
- an ambitious option promoted by the Outboard Boating Club which ran along the southern side of the railway past the OBC site to land near Gladstone Rd. This was costed at $98m.
- a middle-range option which crossed Hobson Bay along the northern side of the railway line, but diverted just before the OBC site, to join Tamaki Drive a short distance west of the Ngapipi Bridge. This was costed at $55m.
- an option which headed northwards from Orakei Train Station (some distance out in the water from Ngapipi Rd), returning to land near the Ngapipi Rd/Tamaki Drive intersection, where it ran along the roadside of the Ngapipi Road boat sheds. This was estimated to cost $39m.
AT chose the last of these options to investigate further – in particular, looking at bringing the route close to the Ngapipi foreshore to avoid impinging on the open water space and local views of the bay.
At our July workshop we were not surprised to hear that the Ngapipi Rd option had been refined to closely follow the foreshore. We also learned the price tag had been reduced to within budget, by value engineering and by substituting a composite decking material instead of timber. (This material is being used extensively in Australia, and will likely also be used on the new Te Whau Pathway, along the Whau River estuary.)
Arriving at the Ngapipi Option
The Ngapipi Rd foreshore option has been keenly debated on our Facebook page. A number of people have expressed dismay that they won’t be able to ride across the bay beside the railway, as they were looking forward to a more direct route and more panoramic views. Others have felt that we are ending up with a project driven by budget rather than convenience or pleasure. Some have expressed support for the chosen route.
All of these views have some validity.
I have been a keen supporter of the direct route across the bay for easier access to and from the Central City. But I’m also aware that people from Glen Innes and Meadowbank will be keen to ride in on GI2TD to reach the beach on summer weekends, or to have coffee at Mission Bay, so not all travel will be a beeline to the CBD.
Like many of us, I was looking forward to riding out across Hobson Bay – but after riding around Ngapipi Rd a few times lately and viewing its foreshore from Tamaki Drive and Orakei Train Station, I can also see that an elevated foreshore cycleway beside the pohutukawa trees will give us magical views. Imagine riding when the pohutukawa are flowering and as they colour the water red with falling blossoms.
Lastly, I always like to keep an eye on the big picture. GI2TD was originally estimated at $30m for all 4 stages, and as an Urban Cycleway Programme (UCP)-funded project, is supposed to be finished by the end of 2018.
Section 2, from St Johns Rd to the Orakei Basin (the grey section in the above image) is proving to be more complicated and expensive than originally planned because of tricky ground conditions and the decision to bridge across some of the steeper terrain. I believe we’ll all see and feel the extra value when we ride that section.
The current UCP runs out at the end of 2018 (and so far, there is no indication it will be renewed) and all funds have been allocated. So, across the whole GI2TD project, staying within budget and on schedule is important. I wouldn’t endorse an option for being the cheapest if that were its only merit – but that is undeniably one of the merits of the Ngapipi foreshore option that has been settled on.
Our public meeting next month will give AT and NZTA a chance to explain the co-ordinated delivery of the three projects that will bring the eastern cycleway into the city:
- Section 4
- the Tamaki Drive/Ngapipi Bridge
- and the Tamaki Drive Cycleway, along with the Ngapipi/ Tamaki Drive intersection works.
AT and NZTA staff are keen to be there, so we’re just sorting a date that suits them. Watch this space – we know you are keenly interested in this project, so we look forward to a great turnout at the meeting!