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Building a road and saving 30 seconds

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One of the most extraordinary things about plans to bulldoze a road through the pristine Takapu Valley is the claim about how much time will be saved. They’re counting the savings in seconds.

The claim is found in an Appendix to the controversial report in which the chief executives of regional councils tell their mayors that they ought to support a road through the valley.

Looking specifically at the options north of Tawa, it is forecast that the difference in travel time between no capacity improvements north of Tawa and either SH1 widening or the Takapu Link is an additional 10-30 seconds in the AM peak period (southbound) and an additional 90-170 seconds in the PM peak period (northbound).

Saving up to 30 seconds in the morning, and 170 seconds at night – these numbers don’t make a convincing reason for building a new road. And if such savings really resonate in the minds of the chief executives, then their report makes it clear that there’s a choice – widening State Highway 1 would achieve the same result, without destroying a valley.

There’s more. The report says that building the new road would encourage more people to use their cars and would therefore reduce the numbers of people using rail transport. It says this could be “mitigated,” but there’s no budget for such mitigation.

No wonder that the Regional Council – which has committed large amounts of money to improving the trains – is opposed to the proposed road through the Takapu Valley. But the chief executives’ report is putting on the pressure for such a road, in spite of the fact that they admit they they know the Regional Council’s position:

Greater Wellington Regional Council expressed a strong preference for a “wait and see” approach and did not support any of the options for additional capacity north of Tawa. This view was based on the forecast congestion not being significant, the uncertain timing of any forecast increase in traffic volumes and the environmental impacts of Options 2 and 3.

The Regional Council is on the right side in this controversy. Its position shows why the Takapu plan shouldn’t be supported. At Monday’s meeting, it’ll be necessary for Fran Wilde – as she pauses in her supercity campaigning – to ensure that the mayors vote against the chief executives’ recommendation.

And what will they be saving:

– 700 hectares of pristine rural valley
– The last undeveloped headwaters of the Porirua Harbour (no trout / lots of native fish)
– The healthy headwaters of the ‘sick’ Porirua Stream
– The last surviving remnant of one of Wellington’s oldest rural communities; several families have been in the valley since the 1860s, when Takapu Valley farms were the ‘country acre’ (100acre blocks) linked to the The Terrace ‘town acre’. If you purchased an acre on The Terrace, you were given 100 acres in Takapu to develop.
– Access to western Belmont Regional Park and a major north Wellington sporting hub.

“Wait and see,” in this case, is an excellent way of ensuring that the Takapu Valley is saved from a dubious new highway.

Read also:
Pushing the wrong road
Takapu Valley vs Transport Agency
Is the city council abandoning the valley?