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Will they show pride in their city? Or will they vote for a flyover?

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Wellington city councillors will this week have an opportunity to demonstrate pride in their city by voting against the intrusive flyover that the Transport Agency wants to build alongside the Basin Reserve. This will be the council’s best chance to try to save the iconic area from road blight (to quote the DomPost’s headline on Thursday).

Councillors will also have an opportunity to support the Architectural Centre’s Option X, which solves traffic problems without needing a flyover and which gives the city more green open spaces. When Option X was published, the Architectural Centre’s president Christine McCarthy summarised the issues that councillors should now be considering:

This isn’t just about transport. It’s about … what we want the shape of our city to be, and it’s about actively choosing the quality of the environment we live in.

The quality of Wellington’s environment is something that should concern all our councillors, even those who weirdly voted against the word “green” last week. As they’ll know from the DomPost report, the 380-metre-long flyover (which would more realistically be described as a bridge or an elevated highway) would blight a nationally significant part of the city.

The mayor’s commendable opposition to the flyover and her support for Option X is clear.

This is something we’re going to have to live with as a city for decades. I don’t want us to be short-changed… We would be let down by having the backside of a flyover in this key part of the city.

Councillor Andy Foster, who holds the council’s transport portfolio, is also a supporter of Option X, according to the Wellingtonian:

Trenching Buckle St would go a long way to improving the route between the Terrace Tunnel and the Basin Reserve. One of the attractions of Option X is that you get separation of traffic on Buckle St, Tory St and Taranaki St.

What other councillors oppose the flyover? Iona Pannett for sure. Paul Eagle perhaps. But most have stayed silent, apart from John Morrison who talks darkly about the “anti-road brigade” and Ian McKinnon who says he would support “the option which was technically feasible and within the funding perameters that the NZTA has laid down.”

He can’t have paid attention to the fiercely-argued opposition to the flyover that’s come from the Civic Trust. In its submission to the Transport Agency, it says the Basin Reserve roading plan is an anachronistic imposition which is irrelevant to present and future needs. It says an obtrusive flyover would violate the urban design qualities of an area which has been identified for enhancement under the council’s Smart Green Wellington programme.

This was one of 2000 submissions sent to the Transport Agency, in response to its request for community feedback. The Agency seems uncomfortable with what it’s been told by the community – it has failed to provide any summary of what the public has said. However it makes no secret of its own closed mind. This is the dogmatic response about Option X from its Wellington state highways manager Rod James:

It has some fundamental problems related to safety, its affordability and how it would work in practice. This is expensive and the money isn’t currently available.

Take that! Not a mention of urban design.

Curiously, having reported the damage that a flyover would cause, the DomPost published an editorial on Saturday saying a flyover is the best idea. Let’s hope at their meeting on Thursday that councillors don’t make a similarly misguided judgement. They should show a stronger commitment to the welbeing of the city which they represent.

Blocking the boulevard

Auckland is different: it’s demolishing a flyover

10 comments:

  1. erentz, 3. October 2011, 11:21

    It’s time we took the whole Ngauranga to Airport strategy back to the drawing board. The long term answer is a tunnel across Te Aro, the question is one of timing.
    Meanwhile let’s do some at-grade upgrades to streamline traffic flows at the Basin Reserve (strangely these have a higher BCR than the flyover).

     
  2. Laura, 3. October 2011, 11:29

    Wellington City Councillors need to know that if as a ratepayer I will be expected to fund Option X – they wont get their rates paid by me.

     
  3. Rod James, 3. October 2011, 14:37

    Good afternoon

    Rod James from the NZTA here. Urban design is really important to us – here is the full statement we provided to the Dominion Post for your information:

    “We haven’t yet received the final submission from the council, and we are looking forward to the outcome of their deliberations next Thursday.

    We’re committed to building the best project we can to solve the traffic problems around the Basin, and we’ll be keeping an open mind as we work through submissions. We will be working closely with the Council in coming months as we develop these plans to ensure we can deliver the safest and most effective transport and urban design solution for all Wellingtonians.

    Urban design is a hugely important consideration. We want to create an attractive shared precinct for both transport and people, and our challenge now is balancing that with the need to deliver a solution that works effectively and is affordable.

    We appreciate that people are very interested in Option X, in particular the urban design features it offers. However, at the moment we don’t favour Option X in its current form because it has some fundamental problems related to safety, its affordability, and how it would work in practice.

    Our main concerns with Option X are:

    · It would require the removal of a swathe of property from Sussex Street to safely make room for four lanes of opposing traffic

    · It would nearly triple traffic volumes on Tory and Tasman Streets

    · It would create lengthy doglegs for thousands of motorists.

    · The ‘green bridge’ would create a steep, three storey climb for pedestrians and cyclists

    · There are significant costs associated with tunnelling under Memorial Park, and the money is not currently available.

    We appreciate there’s a lot of interest in tunnelling under Memorial Park, although this is expensive and the money isn’t currently available. However, we’ve allowed for flexibility by futureproofing the design of Options A and B to allow for the possibility of a tunnel to be built under Memorial Park in the future.

    We’ve raised these concerns with the Architecture Centre and we’ll be considering its feedback about how these problems might be addressed. ”

    Kind regards

    Rod

     
  4. Zippy the Pinhead, 3. October 2011, 14:55

    Ohhh, mutiny in Newtown! Laura, the last time I checked you don’t get to say what your rates get spent on (short of voting at the election for candidates who stand for a particular political slant). There are many things that the council pays for that I (and many other ratepayers) fund through our rates that we don’t use (either at all or enough to justify what we pay). But part of being in a modern society means that we do need to fund and support the community that we are all part of. For example, I don’t think that I will ever use the indoor sports centre, but I don’t get to withhold my rates, just because I don’t like the council’s decision to build it where it was built.

     
  5. The City is Ours, 3. October 2011, 16:19

    New Zealand Urban Design Protocol signatories say; “We are committed to creating quality urban design and we recognise our role and responsibility in achieving this”. Signed amongst others

    http://www.mfe.govt.nz/issues/urban/design-protocol/index.html

    New Zealand Historic Places Trust
    Land Transport New Zealand
    Living Streets Aotearoa
    Wellington City Council
    Transit New Zealand
    Ministry of Transport
    Opus International
    Ministry of Health

     
  6. Paul Jenkins, 4. October 2011, 19:21

    Sick of your rhetoric Rod. All we need do is just look at the ‘bypass’ to see how much the NZTA really give a hoot.

     
  7. Sridhar, 4. October 2011, 20:33

    @Rod: You are concerned that option X will involve “removal of a swathe of property from Sussex Street”. But the NZTA doesn’t seem to mind removal of properties for the sake of the flyover.

    BTW. it is good to hear urban design is really important to NZTA. I hear that cycling facilities are also important to you, but haven’t seen NZTA keep that promise. So we won’t be surprised if urban design is a policy that is equally ignored.

     
  8. Maximus, 5. October 2011, 12:39

    Rod, good to hear that you are at last coming out and making statements in public – I commend you for that. I appreciate that as a public servant you have to tread the Government line, but I’m really not seeing any truth in the statement that urban design is important to the NZTA. As Paul Jenkins says, the Bypass is proof of just how bad NZTA’s version of urban design can be. I think it is universally, apart from NZTA itself, agreed to be a disaster.
    There is a new post at Eye of the Fish re option A, option X, and costs associated with them – perhaps you would like to make comment on that as well? Much appreciated if you can. Eyeofthefish.org/option-x

     
  9. Save The Basin, 5. October 2011, 22:06

    Rod – We appreciate that you don’t like Option X because it wasn’t invented by traffic engineers, but we’re very concerned about your deliberate misinformation on the costings.

    In the media you’ve been deliberately comparing the worst-case costs of Option X ($168 million including contingency) with the best-case costs for your beloved flyover ($75 million, with no contingency, no stand at the Basin Reserve, and no pedestrian and cycle access). Comparing worst-case apples with worst-case apples shows that Option X is $168 million, and your flyover is $109 million, a very different state of affairs to the one you’re peddling in the media.

    The State Sector Code of Conduct obliges you to be impartial, and to offer robust and unbiased advice, yet your public statements seem to be a very long way away from meeting that standard.

     
  10. Badger, 31. October 2011, 10:12

    Who will be driving on this eyesore as peak oil really begins to bite? A few private bankers from the IMF?

     

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