Heavyweights join battle to have ramp reopened

By Mathew Dearnaley

Christine Cavanagh (right) and fellow Herne Bay Residents Association member Julia Cahill say the loss of the Wellington St offramp is creating huge problems. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Christine Cavanagh (right) and fellow Herne Bay Residents Association member Julia Cahill say the loss of the Wellington St offramp is creating huge problems. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Pressure is building on the Transport Agency to honour a commitment to reopen an Auckland motorway ramp which it closed during its $406 million Victoria Park tunnel project.

Western bays residents battling against having roads clogged by refugees from the continued closure of the Wellington St ramp won support yesterday from the Auckland Council's transport committee.

The Automobile Association is also demanding the ramp be reopened, saying it understood the closure was to be only temporary, and the lack of motorway access from Wellington St was causing unacceptable congestion to local roads.

Although the Transport Agency spent an undisclosed sum upgrading the ramp, its future became uncertain when it opened two of the tunnel's three lanes late last year, and was initially overwhelmed by long queues of traffic trying to get through it.

All three lanes are now in use, and the agency acknowledges a significant improvement in traffic flows through the 450m tunnel.

But regional director Stephen Town told the council committee the agency needed to be sure of the best solution for all before reopening the ramp, although it was keeping an "open mind".

"We are not about favouring motorway users over local communities - we are trying to come up with a proposal that might meet the needs of both of those interests," he said.

That required research until July in partnership with Auckland Transport, and he appealed for patience from organisations such as the new Herne Bay Residents' Association, which is campaigning to have the ramp reopened.

The agency was meanwhile trying to encourage more drivers to join the motorway from Grafton Gully or a reconfigured ramp at the intersection of Beaumont and Fanshawe Streets.

But residents' association secretary Christine Cavanagh told the councillors that motorways were designed to take traffic away from urban streets, and "not the other way around".

"It is illogical and wrong to solve motorway congestion by causing congestion in suburban streets," she said.

Neither should drivers of the 7000 or so vehicles which formerly used the Wellington St ramp daily be forced to sit in queues through Ponsonby, St Marys Bay and Herne Bay.

Ms Cavanagh said residents had tolerated the ramp's temporary closure on the understanding that once the new three-lane northbound motorway tunnel was completed, "things would get better".

"But it's ... getting worse."

Council committee chairman Mike Lee said it was unfortunate that the Transport Agency was reviewing its previous commitment to reopen the ramp.

North Shore councillor George Wood appealed unsuccessfully to the committee to let the traffic engineers complete their investigation, saying vehicles appeared to be flowing well to the motorway via the Beaumont-Fanshawe ramp.

- NZ Herald

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