The game is changing for the debate about a flyover at the Basin Reserve. Not only because of the unexpected decision by the Regional Council to reconsider its controversial support of the flyover. But also because of the news that another professionally-designed plan exists to solve traffic problems without the need for a 380-metre long bridge.
Credit regional councillor Paul Bruce for persuading his fellow councillors to change their stance. “I believe there are better ways to proceed than the bridge proposal,” he told them yesterday. And by seven votes to six, regional councillors agreed with him. They will now
work with the NZ Transport Agency and the Wellington City Council to ensure that the full range of options for freeing up public transport movements through the Basin Reserve are on the table.
Which is an excellent reversal of the decision last November to support the flyover, a decision controversially taken without a vote.
In his speech at yesterday’s council meeting, Paul Bruce spoke about traffic counts indicating a steady or declining traffic flow. He criticised the Transport Agency for refusing to consider alternatives to its flyover plan – “scenarios that might achieve the same objective by modal shift to public transport and active modes, alongside clever use of the inner Basin lane and prioritised traffic signals.”
He then revealed that as well as the popular Option X, another roading plan exists.
“Richard Reid and Associates Ltd has a proposal which separates north-south from east-west traffic at the Basin Reserve without the need for a flyover, and is at the same time able to incorporate a public transport spine.”
And he provided more information from the designers:
Richard Reid and Associates Ltd has developed an alternative design for the Transport Agency’s Cobham Drive to Buckle Street project. The aim of our work has been to deliver the intended transport improvements without the adverse effects, risk profile and extreme costs associated with the Transport Agency’s proposal.
Our design removes inconsistencies and inefficiencies from the roading system and separates north-south from east-west traffic at the Basin Reserve without the need to build a flyover. The design incorporates the Regional Council’s railway station to hospital public transport spine.
The Government has already adopted a key part of our design by undergrounding Buckle Street before Tory Street and will save $100m if it extends its support for our other planning recommendations. These will all protect the historic urban structure of the city and important public space features along the route.
We have presented our design in confidence to the Wellington City Council, the Transport Agency, the Hon Christopher Finlayson, Grant Robertson MP for Wellington Central, and all the affected parties along the route.
This is the fifth nationally important transport infrastructure project Richard Reid and Associates has developed an alternative design for, with the previous four adopted and implemented almost in their entirety by the Transport Agency and the former Auckland City Council.
What next? There has to be a change to the stubbornness of the Transport Agency and its blinkered and dictatorial approach to a flyover as the only choice at the Basin. Both the city council and the regional council are now informed about the alternative proposal. Chris Finlayson and Grant Robertson too. The city should expect them to work together to ensure that the flyover plans are dropped.