The chief executive of the Ports of Auckland has unloaded on the "potentially unsafe" and "incredibly expensive" road upgrades Auckland Transport has designed for the main street entrance to the ports.
A letter from Ports of Auckland (PoAL) chief executive Tony Gibson, obtained by the Herald on Sunday via the Official Information Act, dissects numerous flaws he believes are in the $14.4 million Tamaki Dr cycle route as it crosses the Solent St entrance to the port.
Foremost among Gibson's concerns is the mingling of cyclists and pedestrians across Solent St with the hundreds of trucks that enter the port each day.
In the May 8 letter to Waitemata Local Board chairwoman Pippa Coom, Gibson stresses AT should design an underpass or overbridge to ensure "complete separation of road and cycle traffic".
"With parts of the [Tamaki Dr] cycleway built, cyclist numbers have increased, and the risk at intersections like Solent Street has also increased," Gibson wrote.
"Late in the piece and short of money, AT is casting about for a solution, and the answer seems to be 'this is the best we can do, we can't afford to do it properly'.
"This is a terrible approach. Not only does it inadequately address safety, it does not take into account the need to keep freight flowing smoothly through the port."
The Tamaki Dr cycleway roadwork upgrades include the removal of slip lanes entering Solent St.
Gibson also claims that AT has "not listened" to concerns from PoAL and the National Road Carriers association that a curbside cycle route through Solent St "could increase the risk of truck accidents (jack-knife or rollover)".
Gibson also highlights what he believes is the high risk of an accident from cyclists running red lights across Solent St, as PoAL staff "have experience of this daily".
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AT portfolio delivery director David Nelson responded to Gibson's criticisms in a letter to Coom on May 15.
"The [AT's Solent Street cycling] scheme has been safety audited both internally and by an independent safety audit - neither has raised this [truck jack-knifing] as an issue," Nelson wrote.
"Our engineers also undertook a field visit with a heavy freight truck to investigate this issue."
Nelson also cited traffic modelling by AT of Tamaki Dr intersections, and a visual simulation provided to PoAL management showing how trucks from The Strand would pass Tamaki Dr intersections into the port.
Gibson says PoAL did convince AT to "look at a cycle/pedestrian overbridge solution, however they came up with a gold-plated solution that was incredibly expensive".
"When we met with AT to discuss this issue we discovered they were using inaccurate traffic counts for port related vehicles, undermining the very basis of their work," Gibson claims.
Gibson goes on to state "we do not accept AT's previous cost estimates" for a raised cycle path over Solent St.
AT estimates this price at more than $3m, excluding the cost of acquiring the land, for a 3m wide concrete bridge.
Yet Gibson says PoAL is already constructing its own more substantial pedestrian underpass within the ports for its staff that will be far cheaper than AT's estimate. Gibson offers "to share our learnings" with AT in order to do something similar under Solent St.
"Built by the 'cut and cover' method, it will cost about $2m, however our underpass is far longer than would be needed at Solent Street and designed for far heavier loads (100 tonne straddles) so we believe a Solent Street underpass could be built for significantly less than $2m," Gibson writes
AT told the Herald it had nothing to add to Nelson's comments.
However, PoAL offered an additional statement on the Solent St safety upgrades.
"There is an inherent risk in areas where heavy vehicles and people cross paths, and this will only increase as cycling and walking increase," the PoAL statement said.
"Our strong preference is for complete separation of road and cycle/pedestrian traffic in this area via an underpass or overbridge. While this will cost more, it is not expensive compared to the cost of a life.
PoAL acknowledged in May that management was concerned a solution would be imposed without sufficient consultation, but has since had this concern "alleviated" following discussions with AT.
The Tamaki Dr cycle route will run from The Strand at the eastern edge of Auckland CBD, across Hobson Bay, to Ngapipi Rd.
The $14.4m route will span 2km, with construction expected to begin mid-2019.