It costs more to install a signalised pedestrian crossing in Auckland than to build a spanking new four-bedroom home.
A Herald investigation has found Auckland Transport (AT) is spending on average $470,000 to install 27 new crossings as part of a road safety programme.
But while AT is chewing through nearly $500,000 of public money to install each new crossing, in the private sector G.J. Gardner Homes can deliver the Kiwi dream of a new home for $365,000.
The price does not include the land, but on a flat section, G.J. Gardner Homes said it can build a 153sq m home with four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and double garage.
For $485,000 - about the average price of a crossing - the country’s largest builder can deliver a more upmarket 180sq m family home with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen with a walk-in pantry, a theatre room, and a double garage.
But AT is defending the costs, saying they relate to “signalised” crossing which are much more expensive, and include factors “beyond installation” such as investigation, design, community consultation, traffic management plans, street lighting and construction.
“While they are more expensive, they are necessary and save lives in areas where there is a high safety risk, for example near schools or other busy areas,” AT’s executive general manager Integrated Networks, Mark Lambert, said
In response to a Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act request, AT said it is in the process of building 27 new crossings as part of its road safety programme and Vision Zero Strategy, at a cost of $12.7 million.
The 27 new crossings are being built over two financial years. In the first year, 12 were built and in this financial year to the end of June 2024, four are under construction and 11 more are planned. Several new crossings are outside schools.
Three of the crossings are being installed every few hundred metres on East Coast Rd in the North Shore suburb of Forrest Hill. Local resident Andrew Stevenson told the Herald last month it seemed like “overkill” and unnecessarily expensive when a painted zebra crossing would do.
The Herald has been seeking comment from AT since Friday morning on why it costs as much to install a signalised pedestrian crossing as it does to build a new house, and a breakdown of the costs, and has not received a response.
Mayor Wayne Brown, who has called for a complete change in approach at AT, said the cost of new pedestrian crossings was “unjustifiable”.
Brown said there are much cheaper options and better decision-making was needed about where new crossings are installed.
“I will be proposing a budget [next year] that removes funding for such wasteful spending,” he said.
The prevalence and cost of new pedestrian crossings have caught the attention of National’s transport spokesman Simeon Brown, who last year stopped plans by AT to install a $450,000 raised pedestrian crossing in his Pakuranga electorate on Pakuranga Rd.
Brown, tipped to be Minister of Transport and Auckland issues, labelled it “crazy” and promised to slash $3 billion from road safety programmes to spend on new roads.
NZ First is also keen to axe the costly Road to Zero safety programme that has not met AT’s targets of reducing deaths and serious injuries in the past two years. AT set a target of no more than 537 deaths and serious injuries (DSI) on Auckland roads in 2022. The result was 649 DSI.
AT defended the failure to meet the targets, saying it knows from international experience that cities with bold Vision Zero goals perform better than places that have not set ambitious targets.
In May, the Herald reported AT spent $346,000 on a raised light-controlled pedestrian crossing on Williamson Ave in Grey Lynn. Faulty work was picked up during construction but it took seven months before the problems were fixed, causing more disruption.
Bernard Orsman is an Auckland-based reporter who has been covering local government and transport since 1998. He joined the Herald in 1990 and worked in the parliamentary press gallery for six years.