Everyone supported the concept of lowering State Highway One into a cut-and-covered tunnel under Buckle Street. The alternative – to have a main road running through the National War Memorial Park – was stupid. No one liked the stupid idea except the NZ Transport Agency. And the Agency intends to overrule the wishes of Wellingtonians.
Its decision: “Buckle Street will remain at street level.”
Its brief explanation: “It [the tunnel] would have been expensive to build and provided minimal transport benefits.”
Its blinkered focus only on transport benefits explains the disconnect which is emerging between the Agency and Wellington.
The official description of the government-owned memorial park: “a destination for all New Zealanders and international visitors wanting to pay their respects, as well as a real asset for Wellington city.” The park is to be the centerpiece of New Zealand’s commemorations of the centenary of the First World War beginning in August 2014.
Some centrepiece, with three lanes of traffic running through it.
Arts and Culture Minister Chris Finlayson favoured putting the road underground. So did Mayor Wade-Brown. So did the principal of the nearby Mt Cook School. And the local residents’ organisation too. But it seems the Minister and the Mayor and the local people have been overuled by Transport Agency bureaucrats.
Their concern about expense seems pretty dubious, since they’ve announced their ability to find $11m to build a new grandstand at the Basin Reserve, to protect occasional cricketers (but no one else) from the unwanted flyover.
The cut-and-covered Buckle Street could have continued under Tory Street, to solve peak-hour delays at this intersection where the traffic lights satisfy no one. A bit more creative thinking and the undergrounded road could also have gone under Taranaki Street, solving another set of traffic problems. And undergrounding at the Basin Reserve, as everyone knows, would have saved this key area from the ugliness of a flyover.
The Architectural Centre correctly describes the Agency’s plan for the memorial park as a sad affair, a sorry beast:
A sad looking affair, that has the State Highway running through the Park at ground level in much the same way that it does now. The Park is thus completely sliced in two, with the NZ War Memorial on the south side, and the other countries’ war memorials marooned on the other side of the 30,000 cars that this road carries. As time goes by, if you believe the NZTA figures, the amount of traffic on this road will increase by up to 80% as well, so this is a permanent barrier cutting through the park like a dagger to the heart. This sliced-up Park is what the NZTA have convinced the Ministry of Culture and Heritage that it is all that can be afforded, and somehow the city and the community is lumbered with the prospect of this sorry beast.
We agree with the Architectural Centre that this design should be rejected. It will result in a $10m park which is forlorn, unvisited, unappreciated, unloved, and unused.