Monday, March 26, 2007

Bypass my ass?

After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, the final portion of Wellington’s Inner City Bypass is open. The moaning of the Greens is not surprising, and indeed many Wellingtonians have been frustrated too. Well, half finished roads rarely show much promise, and now that Vivian Street is finally operating eastbound (it hardly goes south!) things should flow smoothly. However, it will take easily a couple of weeks before traffic light phasing it sorted out.
^
I grudgingly supported the bypass, largely because almost all those arguing against it were doing so from a position of abject ignorance, and some of its key opponents would outright lie about what it is. Sue Kedgley far too often called it a “motorway extension”, which is an enormous stretch of the truth – at best the motorway has been extended one block south, but even then not to motorway standards or speeds. In addition, the now defunct leftwing free paper “City Voice” once reported that Sue Kedgley voted in FAVOUR of the inner city bypass option when she was on the Wellington City Council – someone ought to research that some more too.
^
For me the Wellington Inner City Bypass is a stopgap – it is simply a more efficient one-way system between Taranaki Street and the motorway than the old dogleg route of Vivian/Ghuznee Street. That’s it!! It is no big deal. If you want to see serious inner city roading, check out the Grafton Gully motorway extensions in Auckland – that was a serious inner city motorway - but the Greens weren’t at all excited about that. The bypass is grossly inadequate, it will reduce congestion, but only provides a more efficient through route and removes one set of traffic lights from the trip between the Basin Reserve and the Terrace Tunnel.
^
The Wellington Inner City Bypass is in fact an abject lesson in two significant political and public policy issues in New Zealand.
^
One, is the strategy of the Greens around issues that a small number of members get passionate about. It is the abandonment of reason and analysis, in favour of emotion and a quasi-religious obsession with single issues, with the tendency to deceive and exaggerate about what is going on. It is about diverting attention from the real agenda, which is a vehement moral opposition to private motoring, and about scaremongering its members and supporters into thinking that what is happening is different from reality. The fact that Labour Government appointed boards of (then) Transfund and Transit New Zealand supported the project, along with a former Labour Mayor (Fran Wilde) and a Labour led Regional Land Transport Committee should tell you volumes.
^
The second is the fundamental failure of a politically driven process to deliver the roading infrastructure necessary for Wellington. It can be seen only too readily in how central and local government agencies, and politicians have treated the bypass vs. Transmission Gully. Transmission Gully is an extremely expensive long term solution to road access to/from the north of Wellington – it is an inefficient project (in fails to have benefits that meet its costs under benefit/cost analysis) and is a classic example of a boondoggle – a pork barrel politically motivated project with insufficient merit to justify itself. Peter Dunne is the piggy with his snout in the trough on this one, for some unfathomable reason. By contrast, Wellington had a proposal for a serious 4-lane bypass, built in a cut and cover tunnel, between the motorway and the Basin Reserve. It had a benefit/cost ratio over 2, and would, in todays dollars, cost probably about half that of Transmission Gully. It would have removed most through traffic from Te Aro and relieved Wellington’s waterfront route sufficiently that it could’ve been reduced from 6 to 4 lanes without worsening congestion. It was abandoned because of a council with insufficient vision, and because no central government Wellington politician could see what a difference such a highway would make. Labour never had the vision for it, and few National politicians did either - in fact one National Transport Minister - Rob Storey (who was a rural MP)- did more for the Greens in stopping road construction in Wellington than any other transport Minister in recent history.
^
I’ve already told the Transmission Gully story (in five parts starting here) – the last chapter being that $9 million of taxpayers’ money (note NOT road users, this is coming from the Crown account – and no, this is after ALL petrol tax is spent) is now being spent on detailed investigation of Transmission Gully. This is the pork that Peter Dunne demanded to keep Labour in power – not much really, although around ten times that will be needed if it goes to detailed design. $90 million to design Transmission Gully – seriously!
^
So today I am starting the story on the Wellington Inner City Bypass, it is a tale of high ambitions and persistence, which pitted on the one hand roading engineers and visionaries, and on the other hand local opponents to any new road construction, and more latterly the anti-road movement of the Greens.
^
By the way if you want to see what the bypass COULD have been like (and the later design was to put it all in a cut and cover tunnel), go here.

3 comments:

sean14 said...

Hi Mr. Scott

If I may turn the discussion back to Transmission Gully, is there scope for private sector involvement in the construction of the road, or is the project simply so expensive that private investors couldn't get a return on their investment?

I'm not aware of any major road projects done in NZ that have been completed by/in partnership with the public sector, is that correct?

Appreciate your feedback LS. Cheers, Sean.

libertyscott said...

Sean

No private investor has shown the slightest interest in fully or substantially funding this road, the only interest there has been has been with enormous subsidies.

However, you should note the actual construction of all roads is carried out by the private sector, under contract to Transit or the relevant local authority.

You're quite right there haven't been any major road projects funded by the private sector in many years, you'd have to go back around 50 plus years to find any, before government became dominant in this sector.

sean14 said...

Cheers LS, much appreciated.