It’s crunch time for Onehunga. The Environment Protection Agency is holding a Board of Inquiry on the proposed East-West Link from SH1 to Onehunga along the inlet foreshore.
Public feedback is open until 5pm on Wednesday 22 March 2017, and there’s a handy link for online submissions on this page.
We’ve written before about our doubts about the project (here, here, and here), which have grown as the estimated cost has ballooned – and we’re not alone in being unconvinced, with the wider community and some at Council also expressing concern. Even though some aspects of the proposal will be great for cycling (among other things), and we generally have a good working relationship with NZTA, our concerns are such that we can’t support this one.
Our official submission will reiterate our general opposition – with the caveat that if the proposal is approved, we want to see significant modifications made as conditions of the consent.
So, why aren’t we convinced this foreshore highway is a good idea for Auckland? Here’s a quick rundown of our concerns.
More roads = more traffic. The theoretical trade-off of new motorways is usually “bring your traffic to the highway, and we’ll take it off local streets” – but in practice, motorway traffic has to arrive and leave via local streets. The proposed route (which largely duplicates an existing route) creates a massive increase in traffic capacity, thus making driving even more attractive through this entire corridor – what we call ‘induced demand’. Also, pulling new traffic through local streets to the new highway, this makes it harder to add bus lanes or cycleways onto the existing routes.
It’s not environmentally friendly. Although the proposal offers some localized mitigation, like noise-walls and run-off treatment, on balance the new traffic will bring more noise and pollutants to the local environment – as well as adding emissions to the global climate crisis. Not a great look in the 21st C.
It cuts off the waterfront. Even though the proposal includes bridges and underpasses in an attempt to preserve connections to the water, at heart it’s a massive ‘waterfront highway’ of a size and nature that will restrict community access to, and enjoyment of, the harbour for generations to come.
What’s in it for walking & cycling? Yes, walking and cycling paths are in the design, and that’s great – but they’re not best-practice design in several respects. (We go into more detail about this in our “Even if” section below, for the possible world in which the consent is approved.)
Where does rail to the airport fit in? There is some high-level consideration of future rapid transport to the airport – but on balance, we read the plans as creating a much more complex and constrained corridor for any rapid transport to thread its way through. This not only makes any eventual airport train trickier, but more expensive too.
All the other things you could do with this project’s budget. Oh, the opportunity cost! Whether or not the project is value for money isn’t part of the Board of Inquiry’s purview. But the price tag keeps rising. To our mind, the billions of dollars (!) it’s currently projected to cost would be far better spent on the hundreds of urgently needed improvements for walking, biking, public transport, and road safety across the whole city.
Okay. But what if it’s approved – what then? Here are our ‘even if’ requests for changes and conditions…
Separate walking and cycling paths for Section 1. Only Section 2 in the east has a separated path for those on bikes; everywhere else, paths are shared with pedestrians, which is far from fun for anyone. We request properly separated paths from Orpheus Drive through to the eastern section.
Onehunga Mall deserves better. The proposed shared path along this grand old shopping street would be the only connection between the town centre and the new harbour paths. With numerous driveways, heavy traffic, and increasing numbers of pedestrians and people on bikes, this just isn’t good enough. We request a best-practice separated cycleway here.
About that airport train. We request the Board review whether the proposal adequately protects the future airport rapid transport route.
Access to the new walking & cycling paths. Between Onehunga and Sylvia Park (sections 2 to 4), there’s a 3-4km section with very limited practical access to the proposed waterfront – especially given how hostile Great South Road is for people on bikes. If you’re trying to get to workplaces north of the park – or Mt Smart Stadium for a game or a gig – you’ll be riding on the road in industrial traffic, and even currently quiet streets will likely fill with traffic.
We request much better north-south connections to the waterside paths, so they can be truly practical walking/biking transport routes, not just recreational rides. (This could be achieved via a funding condition for Auckland Transport projects, as with the Waterview Shared Path.)
Separated paths on the Panama Rd overbridge. This bridge is being fully rebuilt – but the proposal shows only shared paths. Given this is one of the few crossings of SH1 in the area, the stakes are high. Why cement into place a substandard solution? We know NZTA can and should do better, and so we request separated/protected cycleways across this bridge.
A greenway link at Otahuhu. The SH1 bridge over Otahuhu Creek, which will be widened as part of the proposal, happens to cross a proposed west-east greenway. We request that the bridge widening not only future-proof the greenway access, but build the link. This would be a signification mitigation for the extra traffic and motorway works that the project will impose upon the neighbourhood.
A safer Princes St interchange. Not shared paths, again?! This is not only not best practice, it’s a serious liability at an interchange where high traffic volumes and vehicle speeds combine to create a dangerous environment for people on foot and on bikes. We request separated and ideally protected paths for cycling through this interchange, including Frank Grey Place.
Please feel free to mention any or all of these points in your submission – here’s that link again – and share any other thoughts below. East-West, what’s best?