Who will save us from the flyover? The Wellington City Council, perhaps? It has less than three weeks to identify an alternative – the tight deadline having been set by the Transport Agency, which wants the flyover.
The council investigation of options to replace the Transport Agency’s unpopular flyover plan began last last month, authorised by December’s late-night council meeting where – by a vote of eight votes to seven – councillors decided to explore alternative non-flyover transport solutions around the Basin Reserve. “We have to find out if the other options will fly,” said Councillor Foster.
And what are the options that the council and its staff are investigating?
One, of course, is Option X. Its proponents, the Architectural Centre, have prepared a really simple explanation of the plan. And they’ve also done the numbers to show that Option X would cost less than the flyover. This is because a large part of Option X is already being built, by putting Buckle Street into a cut and covered tunnel under the Memorial Park. To complete the Option X plan, the new tunnel would be extended eastwards towards the Basin, creating green traffic-free parkland above it for pedestrians (including hundreds of children going to and from school every day) and cyclists.
Another option is the plan, now revealed to the council but not yet to the public, drawn up by Auckland architect Richard Reid. He has a track record of working constructively with the Transport Agency on two big Auckland roading projects.
A third option, not off the cards, is to leave the existing road as it is, and to make improvements by reorganising traffic lanes, re-sequencing traffic lights, and creating priority for buses. This is the lowest-cost option, and it’s no doubt getting some consideration. Such a plan was proposed by Celia Wade-Brown, before she became the mayor.
The council isn’t telling us anything about its investigation. But it seems to have agreed that it will meet the Transport Agency at the beginning of next month, to report the results. The investigation is being led by Councillor Andy Foster, who heads the transport portfolio. At the December meeting, he reminded his colleagues that the council had first voted against the flyover in 2011. “We said we didn’t like the flyover, the public said the same.” And Councillor Justin Lester summarised the arguments against the flyover. “It has significant urban design issues. The location is not suitable for a flyover.”
In spite of the urban design issues and the unsuitable location, the Transport Agency continues to defend its flyover, and its illusory benefit of enabling westbound traffic to reach the Taranaki Street traffic lights a bit faster than now. However it hasn’t been mentioning the cost in its recent statements – $90million is what it will be spending to build the 380-metre-long concrete structure across Kent and Cambridge Terraces. If it gets its way.