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$5.6m to plan new Melling interchange, including new bridge and train station

News from NZTA
The Melling transport improvements project is to be jointly consented as part of the RiverLink partnership between the NZ Transport Agency, the Wellington Regional Council and the Hutt City Council, Transport Agency Director of Regional Relationships Emma Speight announced today.

The Transport Agency has approved $5.6 million for consenting the Melling transport improvements project, alongside the Greater Wellington Regional Council’s flood protection improvements and Hutt City Council’s urban revitalisation project.

“The success of RiverLink depends on the coordinated design of the central city revitalisation, flood protection upgrades, and transport improvement projects,” Ms Speight says.

“Jointly consenting the three projects will help ensure that designs are aligned, make a clearer case for resource consents, reduce the risk of delays, and deliver cost efficiencies for all partners.

“I’m pleased we are now able to confirm funding and give certainty to our partners that the RiverLink projects can be consented together.”

The Melling transport improvements would replace the existing Melling intersection and road bridge with a new road bridge and grade separated interchange, connecting directly to Queens Drive. Local examples of grade separated interchanges are the Dowse Drive and Haywards interchanges.

The project also includes the relocation of Melling train station – connecting to the Lower Hutt CBD via a new walking and cycling bridge.

Press Release – Business Central – Wellington
Improving traffic flows north of Wellington along State Highway 2 is one step closer today following the New Zealand Transport Agency’s decision to proceed with consent applications for a new Melling interchange, says the Wellington Chamber of Commerce.

“Local businesses are welcoming the Melling interchange advancing to the next milestone “, says Chief Executive John Milford.

“Melling is a significant project for the region promising to revitalise the main entrance to Lower Hutt, relieve chronic traffic congestion, improve access to the railway station, and better protect the city from flooding.

“Today’s decision by the New Zealand Transport Agency to join the Greater Wellington Regional Council and Hutt City Council in securing resource consents for the significant project River Link project is good news.

“Community opinion over past months has strongly supported advancing this project now, and it is pleasing to see decision-makers acknowledge this feedback.

“Lower Hutt is a major commercial and logistics hub for the wider Wellington region. Transport links in and out of the city require immediate improvement.

“Businesses urge NZTA to commit to funding construction of the Melling interchange once its resource consents are granted. The region cannot wait another decade.

“Our members are looking forward to this project advancing in tandem with other regional priorities, including Petone to Grenada and the full Let’s Get Wellington Moving package.”

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13 comments:

  1. Glen Smith, 20. September 2019, 23:46

    It appears that the NZTA haven’t changed their spots (despite the welcome changes on the board) and are going to pursue Melling Bridge changes without examining the sensible option of including a high quality dedicated rail line penetrating the Lower Hutt CBD. As proposed the changes will make Lower Hutt congestion worse not better.

    Several weeks ago I drove (lacking any viable PT option) to visit the Dowse and Queensgate. Getting off the motorway was no problem but the congestion around the CBD and Queensgate was like a quagmire from hell. I left, didn’t go back and probably never will. I wonder how many people from Wellington have had the same experience.

    Building increased arterial road capacity without equivalent high quality PT just encourages more car use and inevitably increases overall congestion. The walking distance from the current Melling Station to the main shipping mall (Queensgate) is around 900m and nobody does this. From the new proposed station it will be around 700m – further than most people are prepared to walk- and again no one will do this. Rail has to penetrate the CBD to be effective.

    The token change of moving the station is merely expedience to get it out of the way for roading changes rather than any serious attempt to improve PT access. This is a pity since including a dedicated light rail corridor would be relatively straight forward (see my article of May 10th 2018 for one possible option). It is time for the Greens (whose elected policy position is rail extension to Lower Hutt) to exert some influence and negotiate for the Coalition to require the new NZTA board to examine this option. Based on the appalling history of Transport planning in Wellington region this seems unlikely. As Lower Hutt CBD descends into gridlock people will look back and wish a high quality PT corridor had been included. But by then it will be too late.

     
  2. Northland, 21. September 2019, 8:13

    The current Melling interchange is seriously unsafe and something needs to be done to fix it asap. Traffic turning right from the northbound lanes sits in a right turn lane that can easily back up into the northbound fast lane – OMG a disaster waiting to happen.

    Agree about the congestion and I would avoid driving through here, but some people have no choice.

     
  3. Glen Smith, 21. September 2019, 11:23

    Northland. Agree that the interchange needs improving (as I say in my article) and even if, based on project benefits, this is a lower funding priority than improvements in our region’s PT network (which I think it demonstrably is – especially across town mass transit) then in the current economic situation a strong case could still be made for funding it by increased deficit budgeting by central government. However the NZTA statement says
    “Lower Hutt is a major commercial and logistics hub for the wider Wellington region. Transport links in and out of the city require immediate improvement.”
    The key here is ‘in and out of the city’ (ie not SH2 but those exiting into Lower Hutt). The statement says ‘transport’ when in fact they mean ‘road’ because while the plans will improve access for cars into Lower Hutt CBD from the major arterial road of SH2 it will do nothing to improve rail access from the high quality fully segregated Melling rail line into Lower Hutt CBD for PT users.

    To appreciate how biased this is, let’s reverse the proposal. Let’s say we close the Melling Bridge and only make a new rail bridge (no car bridge). We then make a new very large carpark where Melling station currently is and say to road users ‘oh its only a short walk into town so we’ll make a new pedestrian bridge for you to walk across from the carpark’. The outcry from the car pundits would be deafening. Yet NZTA seem to think that proposing the same for PT users is somehow balanced planning.

    The new NZTA board or central govrnment need to intervene before consent for this one-eyed proposal is progressed any further. If NZTA refuse to present an option that includes a rail corridor across the Hutt River from the Melling line then the proposal should be vehemently opposed in every possible way (just as the flyover was) until the NZTA can do their job and come up with a balanced transport plan. Otherwise Lower Hutt CBD will progressively descend into gridlock.

    After my experience I now avoid Lower Hutt and I recommend other people do the same until they can get their transport right. The current proposal will only make this worse.

     
  4. Henry Filth, 21. September 2019, 17:11

    Out of idle curiosity, where do the people who travel to and from Melling station live? Does anybody use it during the day to get to or from Lower Hutt?

     
  5. Glen Smith, 21. September 2019, 20:07

    Henry. Asking how many current Melling line users come or go from Lower Hutt is a bit like asking how many Aucklanders use rail to get to the north shore (none because rail doesn’t go there). This doesn’t tell us what the potential market is for a completed line with frequent and convenient service.
    The Melling Bridge flow was around 12,000 in each direction in 2013 (source WTSM data ). Most would be candidates for rail. Those exiting/ entering SH2 from the south (the backed-up right-turning traffic that Northland mentions) are essentially all coming from/ going to Wellington. Those coming from/ going to SH2 to the north will be from Hutt locations further north and also candidates for rail if it links to a station to the east (my option linked to Waterloo but Epuni may well be achievable, picking up Hutt Hospital).
    Assuming say a 25% share this is 3000 each direction per day (in 2013 volumes) over a say a 10 hour day is 300 per hour or a full, seated double Matangi unit every half hour.
    What would congestion look like in Lower Hutt CBD if we took 6,000 vehicles per day out of the current downtown street congestion load? A lot better than when I visited that’s for sure. I might even think about going back. Ray Wallace and Lower Hutt businesses might like to think about proper balanced transport planning before congestion gets worse and people abandon Lower Hutt in even larger numbers.

     
  6. Andy Mellon, 22. September 2019, 19:29

    Glen. I’m all for extension of the Melling Line, but to Belmont/Kelson to remove vehicles from the road at peak time and at a much lower cost.

    I’ve made this point before and you didn’t reply. Why do you think a line over to the CBD will be an improvement when the relocated Melling Station will be a pedestrian bridge length away from the CBD?

    Where’s the population base in the CBD which would use the line into there in comparison to the significant commuter population in Kelson/Belmont?

     
  7. Glen Smith, 22. September 2019, 22:04

    Andy. The way to determine this would be a modelled study. I can pretty much tell you what result of this would be. There is no way rail can travel up into the hill suburbs of Kelson/ Belmont. The furthest north it is likely to get on the flat is to Belmont school. Nobody from this school would use the train. The walking catchment for rail is usually seen as around 400-500m. Looking at satellite imaging there is no housing within this distance to the east (it is all river flat) and perhaps a couple of dozen houses in the lower foothills of Belmont and Kelson to the west. This might generate half a dozen rail users at best. All the other potential rail users from Belmont and Kelson would have to reach rail by feeder bus (which could just as easily go to Melling) or by park and ride (which could also go to Melling). It would provide no link for Hutt valley residents north of Lower Hutt to reach Lower Hutt.
    In contrast Lower Hutt CBD is a key trip destination and, as outlined above, a link from Melling to either Waterloo or Epuni would open provide rail access to/ from the Lower Hutt CBD for thousands of transport trips (if not tens of thousands in time) from Wellington and the whole Hutt valley.

    You say your extension would be cheaper but provide no basis for this claim. The amount of new rail would be just over 2km for each proposal. The route through the CBD would all be on existing level graded and reinforced road surfaces. There is no existing graded reinforced surface along the route to Belmont/ Kelson which all lies within the Hutt River flood plain.

    You previously stated that light rail to Lower Hutt CBD would require land take but this is false- it could be achieved within existing road reserve, with the loss of some parking in Lower Hutt CBD and the central turning median down Knights Road (I envisioned a single track to match the Melling line single track with timed units passing at a central double track section somewhere near the Lower Hutt CBD).

     
  8. Brendan, 22. September 2019, 22:23

    Melling interchange needs sorting. LGWRM (R being region).

     
  9. Andy Mellon, 23. September 2019, 9:35

    Thanks Glen for replying.

    I think what you’re missing is that Belmont/Kelson on the flat will be, much like Melling, a Park & Ride destination for those on the hills. A number of my work colleagues up at Maungaraki already use the Melling Line and a couple who have to leave later due to dropping off kids can’t as the parking at Melling is usually oversubscribed by the time they leave. These stations are directly on the way from the hill suburbs to town. When Kelson commuters drive down to SH2, they could opt at that point to either navigate the traffic or park and take the train. Park & Ride facilities have much larger catchments than the 400-500m walking profile you’ve mentioned, so I think you’re seriously underestimating usage for a Belmont/Kelson station. The evidence – well, all that parking at Melling won’t be coming from people around Pharazyn Street plus that anecdotal evidence.

    As for price, according to the people I spoke to at the Council around the consultation for the Melling Interchange design, provision for extension to Belmont/Kelson is already in that design. For an extension to the CBD, changes to the Interchange or, ideally, a rail-based river crossing will be required. That’s already a substantial increase on the requirement for an extension to Belmont/Kelson. I also suspect it’s idealistic to think that existing road space can be used.

    What evidence do you have that Northern Hutt users would take the train to Petone and then change trains to take the Melling Line to the CBD? Why wouldn’t they disembark at the relocated Melling Station and walk over the new pedestrian bridge or, for those capable, walk from Waterloo and not have to change trains? A lot depends on the route, of course, but the longer the route through the CBD, the more expensive and less likely that no land take is required.

     
  10. Dave B, 23. September 2019, 13:23

    The Melling interchange could be made safer simply by applying an 80Km/h speed-limit on its approaches. The existing 100Km/h limit is too fast for a traffic-light intersection. The time lost by reducing a short section to 80Km/h (when not required to stop, that is) would be a few seconds only, and in no way justifies the cost of a grade-separated interchange.

    What makes the Melling Rail Line very ineffective outside of peak-times is its low frequency between the peaks and non-operation in the evening or weekends. If a more-comprehensive service was provided, and if it was promoted as much-easier rail-access to Lower Hutt CBD than Waterloo Interchange is, then it would likely get more use.

    Ideally it should be extended and there would be separate advantages on whichever side of the river this was done. But as things stand, NZTA wants to shorten it, simply to get it out of the way of their precious road-interchange. This is a very backwards basis for integrated transport-planning in the 2020’s.

     
  11. Brendan, 23. September 2019, 14:28

    You’d be lucky to do 30kph at the weekends and during the peaks Dave B. The interchange should have been grade separated years ago. It’s now as slow as the Melling train but at least cars do stop at the junction.

     
  12. Dave B, 23. September 2019, 20:43

    @ Brendan. Yeah, agree the place can become pretty choked at busy times, especially the turning lane to Melling. Reducing the speed limit on approach would be to increase safety, not reduce congestion. The Melling Rail Line should have been extended and given a proper weekend service years ago. Too many people with no choice but to use cars. And the more roads we continue to build, the more traffic we are sure to get. Where does it all end?

     
  13. Derek, 23. September 2019, 23:12

    @ Dave B Where does it all end? Only with population control that will solve the endless demand for more infrastructure.