Thursday, April 06, 2006

Tolling Transmission Gully

Well it had to happen - Transmission Gully could not be built as an untolled road, not because of cost, because it wont generate much revenue at all - but because if untolled it would be a subsidy for people commuting from Kapiti Coast and result in substantial amounts of housing development in Kapiti and Horowhenua because taxpayers - not road users and certainly not users of that road - would be paying for it. Tolling will mean two things - the users will be paying around 20% of the cost of the road (including fuel tax and road user charges), but at off peak times most people will use the existing road. Why pay if it wont save you time? BOTH routes should be tolled to pay for it - particularly since the main beneficiaries are those whingers who bought houses along the existing highway wanting a windfall increase in property values by taxpayers paying for a new road that wasn't even seriously considered until the 1990s.
The Dominion Post continues to fail to report accurately claiming that the Hearings Panel report on public consultation was generated by Transit and the Regional Council, which is nonsense.
The new regional plan proposes that Transmission Gully could be built for $955 million, in a decade. Of this, $412 million would come from already guaranteed funding, $428 million from special Government loans, and $115 million from loans to be covered by tolls. $955 million is a joke - seriously - this project will face overruns of around 10-20% if other state highway projects are anything to go by. Transmission Gully will cost around $1.1-$1.2 billion. The already guaranteed funding doesn't exist - that funding is actually $405 million and there is no such thing as a special Government loan - yet. A case could be put for it, but I wouldn't be lending money for a roading project which had lower benefits than cost - may as well build a gas to gasoline plant at Motunui.
So we will see. If Transmission Gully is to go ahead, it should FOLLOW the rail improvements already agreed, and a number of minor improvements to the current route (median barrier, interchange at Paekakariki and possibly bypass at Pukerua Bay) should proceed.
I still think there is every likelihood Transmission Gully wont proceed - because it is so hienously expensive. The next most expensive project in Wellington is $180 million and for the money spent on Transmission Gully, Wellington city could have a proper inner city bypass (4-lane cut and cover tunnel from Terrace Tunnel to Mt Victoria Tunnel, with both tunnels duplicated and 4-lanes to the airport) and a lot more besides. Such a project would transform the region by dramatically improving access to and from the airport and hospital, remove a third of the traffic from inner city streets - enable the waterfront route along the quays to have a lane removed in each direction, buses would flow far more freely through town.
Transmission Gully will just knock 5 minutes off the off-peak time from Wellington to Kapiti and perhaps 20 minutes off the peak journey, and remove 60% of the traffic from Pukerua Bay and Mana - both communities very used to through traffic. Transmission Gully wont fix Wellington city congestion.
Maybe a better approach is congestion pricing to pay for a proper city bypass and Transmission Gully? I simply think the region hasn't thought through its priorities sufficiently and too many are worshipping the cult of Transmission Gully - if they ever get it, they will be very disappointed.


Seamonkey Madness said...

Stuff said: "Ms Brash said last night that ideally tolls could be avoided but "if it means getting the road built quicker, then we have to look at it as an option". Studies had indicated many motorists were willing to pay tolls."

Frankly, the Porirua mayor should think about taking some stress leave, as it seems that she does not have all her cognitive abilites to draw on.

As for the cut and cover tunnel, I would be interested to see on a map where you imagine it going.

Ben said...

So yesterday the WCC votes to back the report recommending the Transmission Gully pipe-dream going to the RLTC while at the same time making the observation it will likely never go ahead. That's great leadership; 'we don't agree but we think the public will be angry if we don't follow the process and back the populist stupidity'.

Until recently I hadn't been following the Western Corridor debate as closely as I should have, now I start to read more about it and it just makes my blood boil. It's really frustrating to see such a constrained discussion about Road 1 vs. Road 2 when in fact what we likely need is a mix of approaches (rail, congestion pricing, technology, minor road improvements etc.). And to hear the regional council say they will make the rail system more usable when more people start using it sounds like something out of Catch 22.

Myself, having lived in urban sprawl in California and seen that even Los Angeles, the most car crazy city in the world, is investing in mass transit, it's just crazy that we have to learn our lessons the hard way in NZ. I guess I wouldn't care so much if the buggers didn't want to use my money for this stupid plan.

I wonder how many of the supposed 65% of Wellingtonians and even higher percentage of folks in the region that are claimed to support Transmission Gully would do so if they had any idea that there could be more than just a choice between Road 1 and Road 2.

Safe travels.