Next harbour crossing – deferring a road crossing “lazy thinking.”

4 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineNovember 9, 2020

The suggestion to defer the building of the next road connection across Auckland Harbour until the mid-to-late 2040s makes no sense, says Auckland Business Forum chairman Michael Barnett.

The suggestion of improving freight travel by removing cars is flawed, as the removal of cars won‘t happen until there is a viable alternative – at best in another 20 years.

“If this is the answer the NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport are coming up with in their latest harbour crossing business case, they‘re not asking the right questions or drawing the obvious conclusions from their own research,” Barnett says.

The latest report is similar to business cases of the 1990s, and which said a second harbour crossing would be needed in 20 years. “Action was deferred, but it shouldn‘t be deferred again.”

The latest report notes the bridge is an ageing structure with growing maintenance needs, and will require increasing traffic management restrictions to protect it.

They also note that a rapid transit connection won‘t fully address traffic problems, predicting traffic congestion is forecast to remain, increasingly stretching into interpeak hours.

They conclude that this will leave the network exposed in the case of a catastrophic event of or when the bridge needs to undergo structural upgrading or maintenance, an increasingly likely situation over time.

Nevertheless, they say, the business case does not identify a need for the road connection before the mid-to-late 2040s.

“That is lazy thinking,” says Barnett.

A rapid rail harbour crossing between the North Shore and the CBD won‘t provide relief to the 55% of commuters travelling across the harbour who have destinations outside the CBD, or for the ever increasing of freight and commercial traffic. Heavy traffic has grown 30% in the past five years, and is expected to continue to grow as population of Auckland heads to 2 million.

Auckland business is therefore calling for the alignment of a road tunnel to be revisited. Alternative alignments have previously been discussed to the west (connecting to Waterview) and the east (connecting to Grafton Gully), however these haven‘t been looked at for at least a decade. The context is now very different, not just in terms of transport, and the economy but also land use and population growth. Tunnel technology has also advanced – it is much cheaper and faster.

The price of money is attractive, and Barnett says we now have a much better understanding of what benefits these mega-projects produce – the Waterview Tunnel has set the benchmark for delivering network-wide benefits and unlocking capacity.

Also, the post-Covid-19 world, the accelerating demand for electric vehicles and new fuels such as pollution-free hydrogen mean that the private vehicle will continue to be the favoured means of transport for the foreseeable future.