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Traffic improvements = more traffic lanes

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For those of us who aren’t paying attention to what’s happening on the inner city bypass, one of Wellington’s leading bloggers has done some pertinent observing for us.

On his estimable eyeofthefish blog, Maximus has been investigating. Here’s what he’s found.

The “traffic improvements” to the inner city bypass involve adding an extra lane, essentially everywhere. Where it was 3 lanes (at the junction of the Terrace Tunnel at Willis St) it is now 4 lanes. Where it was 2 lanes (along Karo Drive) it is now becoming 3 lanes. Kerb and channel that has only been there since mid 2000s is now being torn up, along with flower beds and any of the other slight attempts at landscaping that Transit made at the time, and extra asphalt is being added.

Traffic improvements evidently do not seem to include things like dedicated bus lanes in the new lane of traffic, or a new cycle lane, or even a widened pedestrian pathway, but all it seems to be is just an extra lane of traffic.

Looking wider, Maximus finds

Vivian St is essentially being planned to go from 2 lanes to – yes, you guessed right – to 3 lanes, at the bottom part of it first. So, parking in front of the last block between Tory St and Cambridge Tce will be removed – i think it applies not just at peak time, but perhaps all day long? After all, for Vivian St, as part of the State Highway 1, it never really has a period when it is not busy.

Vivian St is, essentially, a controlling factor in the flow of cars into the city. It is only 2 lanes wide at the start, and it is arguable that it only needs to be 2 lanes wide at the finish as well. Certainly if it was 3 lanes all the way through, from top to bottom, then it would become a defacto motorway extension.

Currently, some of the drivers using Vivian St treat it like a motorway anyway – I’ve seen and heard some pretty hairy close misses from people still tuned to the speed they were doing on the motorway, and rather oblivious that they are passing at ground level through one of the most densely packed pedestrian routes in the city, as they zoom across Cuba St.

At present, the somewhat ridiculous weaving back and forth (necessitated by small pockets of parking on one side of the road, that then swaps to the other side), is not, as I have thought in the past, merely incompetence by the traffic designers at NZTA, but instead it is actively planned that way, to emphasize the weaving, and thereby slow down the speed of the cars cruising through.

And a final thought:

Arguably, all this work to SH1 at Vivian St should not happen at all, and if it does, it should only happen underground. A trench. I think we need to start exploring the concept for a trench at least in parts along Vivian St, as 3 lanes at ground level there is just going to be horrific.

It’s evident, as well, that if more of the bypass was trenched, then peak traffic problems with the lights at every intersection would be readily resolved. But trenches aren’t popular with the Transport Agency. For years it said that SH1 had to run through the new Memorial Park because a trench or a tunnel was unaffordable. The claim proved to have no substance when politicians instructed them to trench the road.

Last August the Architectural Centre pointed out how easily the Buckle Street tunnel could be extended towards the Basin Reserve, avoiding the need for the flyover. There was no response to its excellent suggestion. And as work continues on the trench, it’s also obvious that running it under Taranaki Street would fix the problems at this frustrating stop-start bottleneck. But the Transport Agency dictates what’s to be done, and its answer, again, is no.

It is accustomed to getting its own way. But at the extended board of inquiry hearing into the Basin Reserve flyover proposal, its staff have faced detailed challenges and prolonged questioning. Maximus has plenty to say about this, too. You really need to read his eyeofthefish article in full.