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Basin flyover: another week of opposition

It’s hard to find anyone who likes the NZ Transport Agency’s plans for a 380-metre-long flyover alongside the Basin Reserve. Starting at the Mt Victoria Tunnel, the structure would carry two lanes of vehicles above Ellice Street and Kent and Cambridge Terraces and discharge them at the Tory Street traffic lights. The flyover would be a dismal eyesore across the cityscape.

Joining the opposition for a second consecutive week is the Fairfax weekly newspaper The Wellingtonian. In its editorial this week [1], it writes very reasonably:

When the Architectural Centre came forward with a third option … many of us were left wondering why the Transport Agency had not come up with the idea in the first place.

That third option – which the Architectural Centre has named Option X [2] – would separate traffic flows without the need for a flyover. It would use a trenched tunnel starting at Sussex Street and continuing under Buckle Street to Taranaki Street.

The Wellingtonian is enthusiastic about the plan to trench Buckle Street, and makes a valid comparison with the failure of the inner city bypass:

When the inner city bypass was mooted in the 1980s, trenching Buckle Street and parts of Willis Street was discussed. Transit New Zealand, the agency’s predecessor, said trenching was too expensive and went ahead with a street-level road.

Look how well that turned out. The result is a half-baked highway that crosses two major arterial routes – Willis and Victoria streets – and has five light-controlled intersections. Anyone driving along Willis or Victoria streets knows how frustrating it can be …

Wellingtonians do not want or need another half-baked idea that could result in even more traffic jams.

The newspaper reminds us that Mayor Prendergast favoured trenching Buckle Street. [3] As does Mayor Wade-Brown. But though the Transport Agency can consider spending $11m on a new Basin grandstand, it says unconvincingly that trenching can’t be afforded. We agree with the Wellingtonian’s warning:

If Wellington goes for the easiest or cheapest options, we could end up with spaghetti junctions, similar to the not-so-efficient ones in Auckland.

The Capital Times is reporting this week that an online poll shows 89 per cent of respondents think the Transport Agency should consider the Architectural Centre’s plan. Last week the paper reported another poll with 91 per cent saying the Agency should take its roading plans back to the drawing board.

Unluckily for Wellington, the stubborn, blinkered Agency is so far showing no willingness to consider anything except its own two flyover options. David Laing, chair of the new lobby group Community for Sustainable Transport, says the agency’s consultation “doesn’t really seem like consultation. It’s more of a fait accompli.” Nevertheless, the Agency is going through the motions of inviting submissions. If the responses match the comments received by Wellington.Scoop, over 80 per cent of them will be against what it wants to do. Submissions close on August 24.