Into the Tower of Babel that is Auckland transport planning has stumbled tenderfoot Transport Minister Simon Bridges, declaring his desire to speed up progress on the proposed $4 billion to $6 billion cross-harbour tunnel, east of the harbour bridge.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, even Mayor Len Brown's road-building allies on the New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development (NZCID), are rubbishing his plans to solve Auckland's long-term traffic problems.
Like many of us, they're arguing that the mayor's dreams will cost $12 billion more than the city budget can afford over the next 30 years, and will still leave the streets more congested in 2031 than at present.
As for Mr Bridges' tunnel, that will cost the equivalent of two years' worth of the total New Zealand-wide state highway budget to build and, unless it is a dedicated rail tunnel, will just funnel more cars into the already congested isthmus road network.
In this context, NZCID chairman Stephen Selwood's call for a "new approach" starting with "a transport accord between local and central government" is a glimmer of common sense. It's something various public transport lobbyists have long proposed. Hopefully, coming from government allies in the NZCID, it might finally gain some traction.
As part of the accord, Mr Selwood calls for an agreed transport investment strategy which ensures "that urban intensification and transport are better integrated".
What is left unsaid by the infrastructure development council is what they mean by "transport investment". The public transport lobby, of course, want an accord which would allow Aucklanders a greater say over how the NZ Transport Agency Auckland spend is shared between highways and public transport.
Instead of, for example, throwing more money at planning a harbour tunnel, redistribute that money to kick-starting the City Rail Link tunnel.
Mr Bridges' decision to commission a new business case for the harbour tunnel, which he referred to as a "critical" transport link, seems incomprehensible, except in the context of the Northland byelection and trying to kid voters that the new tunnel will pop up in Kaitaia or Kerikeri, bringing instant prosperity.
Why would you start a business case probe into the potential demand for a new tunnel north, before the $2 billion-plus Waterview bypass and 48km of associated motorway is up and running. Billed by NZTA as "the largest roading project ever undertaken in New Zealand" it will, when completed in 2017, " bypass central Auckland to the west, therefore ending Auckland's reliance on a single motorway spine - SH1 and the Auckland Harbour Bridge - for road travel through and within the region".
Any business case prepared before this project is completed will have to rely on notoriously inaccurate modelling to predict its effect on the harbour bridge and the need for an alternative underground crossing.
Even without the completion of this western ring route, the case for a harbour tunnel is weak. Back in 2011, the Transport Blog revealed a confidential Beca Infrastructure report to the NZTA noting a decline in traffic volumes and loadings on the harbour bridge since 2005, reversing a 45-year pattern of steady growth. It reflected a similar decline in nationwide motorway volumes.
The runaway success of the Northern Busway played a significant part in the reduction in bridge traffic, with up to 40 per cent of morning users now travelling by bus. Public transport usage has rocketed citywide, between 2007 and 2013, jumping from 52 million journeys to more than 70 million.
Which takes us back to NZCID's call for a new approach. NZTA spends the bulk of its money on roads - either fully funded state highways, or part-funding of some local roads. Money for public transport is harder to extract. Aucklanders, for example, are expected to pay half the $2.5 billion cost of the Central Rail Link out of their rates. Yet it is every bit as much a "state highway" as the Waterview Connection.
The new approach that the infrastructure council and AA bosses are calling for should be based on the premise that Aucklanders have more say over the spending of the third of NZTA's income they provide. If the National Party candidate in Northland can suddenly decree that the NZTA will spend up to $69 million over the next six years replacing 10 single lane bridges with two lane crossings, then Aucklanders should be given a voice on NZTA spending too. If Auckland wants to devote more money on its special needs, why not?