17 December 2005

Dominion Post right on Transmission Gully

The Dom Post is right about Wellington’s Western Corridor highway issue.

It says:

“The "solutions" proposed by opponents of the coastal upgrade do not withstand scrutiny.
Tolling the road to pay the difference between the two alternatives is impractical. Officials have calculated that only $115 million could be raised through tolling, and only if the speed limit on the existing coastal road was cut to 50km/h to make it less attractive.

Reprioritising other roading projects in the region is not an option. There are already more motorists inconvenienced by delays in Ngauranga Gorge, in and around the capital and between Wellington and the Hutt Valley than there are up the coast.

Building only the top half of Transmission Gully or a two-lane version of the road would not solve the congestion problems the road is intended to fix.

It appears from Sir Brian's questions that the Western Corridor committee is investigating the possibility of a compromise that could see some, but not all, elements of the current coastal proposal implemented. “

Quite right too. It is a very hard decision – parts of the coastal route would be very hard to consent, but Transmission Gully is a very expensive waste of money – another Think Big project, which has advocates from some who should know better, given the history of their political party. I've blogged so much on this already which you can read in the November and October archives.

David Farrar supports Transmission Gully, but it appears to be because it is more achievable that the coastal upgrade - although the coastal upgrade consists of 4 discreet projects, and the Nats have proposed a major streamlining of the RMA which would make the coastal route more achievable. I haven't seen where the extra $350 million for Transmission Gully is going to come from though, as this presumably must be from not building other projects (Wellington has already effectively been promised its full share of petrol tax money from Labour, with all the Crown contributions that are being made).

The compromise the Dom Post is implying, would be interesting though there are no details.

My bet is that it involves leaving Mana as is for now, given that the recent upgrade has eased congestion there, but will see a 2-lane bypass at Pukerua Bay (to relieve that community of through traffic) and a flyover at Paekakariki to fix that nasty intersection. Given that Land Transport NZ has already approved funding for a median barrier along the coastal section, it could be argued that 4-laning the coast would be premature. The projects north of Mackays and south of Paremata would be unchanged (Western Link Road, Petone-Grenada), and the rail upgrade would proceed as proposed (without the very expensive double tracking north of Pukerua Bay).

That’s what I’d advocate, don’t do Transmission Gully or 4-lane the coast, for now. Most of the route closures are due to head-on collisions, which the median barrier will prevent. Since tolls wont pay for Transmission Gully even taking into account revenue from petrol tax and road user charges from those who are likely to use it, why should non-users pay? I thought that was what National and ACT advocated.

All of which means that we are back to making incremental progress. The cold hard reality is that once the projects listed above are done, the problems north of Paremata are not that serious and don’t warrant throwing a billion dollars at a project with a negative return. The road will be safe, the congestion will be manageable, and eventually, there will be need to be more work done – but by then there may be congestion pricing in Wellington, which may mean there is no need at all for extra road capacity.

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