CBD-Panmure tunnel plan to cut through gridlock

By Amelia Wade

Panmure Station on Auckland's Eastern Line. Photo / Wikimedia
Panmure Station on Auckland's Eastern Line. Photo / Wikimedia

Auckland urgently needs to revise its transport priorities and should build a giant tunnel from the CBD to Panmure, says an infrastructure lobby group.

But public transport advocacy groups say the report is biased towards roading projects and have called it a "motorway building binge".

All parties agree that city officials need to rethink transport and urban intensification, especially around the city fringe.

The New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development yesterday released its report assessing the city's congestion problem which costs Auckland about $1.5 billion a year.

Chief executive Stephen Selwood said the Unitary Plan allowed for urban infill in areas which cannot be economically served by public transport but doesn't allow sufficient density adjacent to rail and busway stations.

"This forces car dependency and makes congestion much worse than it needs to be."

Mr Selwood said current projections from the Auckland Transport Alignment Project showed that within a decade State Highway 1 and other critical parts of the network would be in gridlock "all day every day".

"If that were allowed to happen, the Auckland economy will grind to a halt and liveability would be seriously degraded.

"Projects like the Waterview connection and rail service improvements now under construction buy us a little bit of time. But we need to act more swiftly if we are to avoid gridlock within a decade."

Mr Selwood said for Auckland to continue being a livable city, officials must:

• Improve the frequency and convenience of public transport services to major centres of employment, education and entertainment and improve park-and-ride facilities.

• Loosen residential development and height restrictions in areas with quality public transport access and strengthen restrictions in areas without it.

• Allow much more growth in the area from Ponsonby to Mt Eden, Newmarket and Parnell.

• Implement road pricing.

Another of the recommendations was to build a tunnel from the CBD through Orakei then connect up with SH1 around Mt Wellington which would "finally address the most significant bottleneck in the New Zealand transport system".

The Eastern Corridor was investigated in 2004 and was estimated to cost $3 billion.

Transport Blog editor Matt Lowrie called the idea "insane" and said the infrastructure council was only serving its own purpose and its members by reviving the plan. However, he supported the implementation of road charges as a means to control congestion.

Generation Zero spokesman Leroy Beckett said a "motorway building binge" will do little to help Aucklanders stuck in traffic and the report's proposal to open up busways for trucks and other vehicles was "outrageous".

"We agree Auckland's transport and housing plans need to be better aligned to solve the serious issues facing our city. We don't think redoing the mistakes of the past will solve either issue."

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said the Government established the Auckland Transport Alignment Project, to work out what projects and areas needed to be prioritised.

Mr Bridges said he would wait until the team reported back in August before commenting on individual projects.

About $1 billion a year is being invested in the city's transport infrastructure but "clearly we're going to need to do more over time", he said.

- NZ Herald

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