And just as we think Government's got the message, Simon Bridges fast-tracks the $1.85 billion East-West Link.

I have no idea what the attraction of walking through a new road tunnel is, but if it is so popular, why isn't the Government clipping the ticket and raising a bit of cash?

Seems 42,000 tickets for the Waterview Tunnel walk-through have been snapped up for this Sunday and next, and now, three more open days have been announced.

At $10 a head, that would provide plenty of cash for an expert report reminding the politicians and Auckland's caraholics that history tells us that building more roads just adds to our transport woes, it doesn't solve them.


Patting himself and his government on the back, Transport Minister Simon Bridges is hailing the project, which gets a ceremonial opening on Sunday, as "the country's largest and most ambitious roading project," one that "will give more options ... creating a more efficient, reliable and resilient transport system."

How deluded can you be. While he is talking up the glories of the Waterview Tunnel, his very own road builders are trying to hose expectations down. New Zealand Transport Agency Auckland highway manager Brett Gliddon went on the AM Show to warn Aucklanders the new tunnels were not the magic stent that would suddenly restore Auckland's traffic flow to a healthy state.

Defensively he insisted, "We've never said it would fix peak congestion in the city. There's still going to be a morning peak and an afternoon peak and the tunnel will be part of that."

In other words, what the $1.4 billion tunnel complex will do is provide another venue for peak traffic crawl.

Of course this is hardly new news. Back in the mid-1960s, San Francisco engineering consultancy De Leuw Cather was commissioned to report on Auckland's road and public transport.

This came 10 to 15 years after Auckland City bureaucrats and politicians turned their backs on a Government-backed plan to electrify suburban rail and build an underground loop.

The De Leuw Cather report said that motorways alone were not the answer. It said fast, safe and efficient public transport should have priority, recommending a rapid rail-bus network to complement the planned motorways.

But by then the road supporters and their motorway-dominant Master Transportation Plan were in the ascendancy. Transport historian Graham Bush quotes Auckland City Council Engineer Arthur Dickson in his foreword to that 1956 plan, knocking trams and railways for their "fixed, inflexible routes" and warning that if "creeping paralysis is not to choke Auckland's transportation arteries", an immediate start had to begin on the urban motorway network.


Famous last words and all that. On Sunday, Dickson's road-building heirs will ceremonially open the last of the great planned arteries he dreamed of.

And they're warning that it won't solve the creeping paralysis that afflicts Auckland's traffic network. If anything, it could make it worse, by encouraging more people to try their luck.

In recent years, Auckland politicians have belatedly accepted the old De Leuw Cather advice about Auckland being doomed without a fast, safe and efficient public transport network.

Gradually the central government politicians are coming on board. First with electrification of the commuter rail network and then, and very reluctantly, with the downtown underground CRL.

But just as we think central government's got the message that Auckland has a 70-year deficit in public transport infrastructure that needs prioritising, Bridges bows to the god of roads, as if to apologise for back-sliding, and fast-tracks the $1.85b East-West Link motorway from Onehunga, which will apparently cut an average 10 minutes off an 8km truck journey.

The truckies have persuaded him it's a road of national significance.

What a shame the long-suffering bus commuters out west didn't have the same sort of political pull when it came to adding a dedicated busway to the recent upgrades on the Northwest Motorway.

It's a proven successful recipe. The 9-year-old Northern Busway has been a poster boy for public transport, with 40 per cent of people crossing the Auckland Harbour Bridge during the morning peak now using buses.

If the politicians had agreed to a similar dedicated busway on the Northwestern Motorway, NZTA might not now have to be warning of gridlock continuing at Waterview, despite the new tunnels.