Wellington Scoop

Everyone’s happy about putting SH1 into a trench – so, more please

The weekend report that State Highway One will be moved into a covered trench under the new park in front of the National War Memorial seems to have pleased everyone.

Mayor Prendergast says it’s the best solution and “a superior outcome.” The principal of the nearby Mt Cook School is “absolutely thrilled.” The Mt Cook Mobilised group is “very happy.”

Not that the decision has yet been officially announced. But there’ve been rumours for a week or two, and the Dominion Post printed them on Saturday. There were no denials, though the cost of $50m will have to be defended during the annual Budget negotiations. With the Ministers of Transport and Arts, Culture and Heritage in agreement, the defence should be strong. Final approval could win them votes.

It is however obvious from the weekend report that the cut-and-covered Buckle Street should continue under Tory Street – which would solve the rush-hour delays at this intersection where the traffic lights satisfy no one. A bit more creative thinking and the undergrounded road could also go under Taranaki Street, thereby fixing another set of traffic problems. If the road doesn’t go under these two busy streets, the current problems will be exacerbated.

The undergrounding plan is also an encouraging sign for the campaigners who are endeavouring to save the Basin Reserve from a flyover. “Clearly, what works for Memorial Park will also work for the Basin Reserve,” says co-convenor Kent Duston.

Trenching of roads around the Basin has already been proposed by the Architectural Centre, with this appealing design which would create new traffic-free green zones for pedestrians. How could anyone choose a flyover, when cut-and-covering offers a far better solution.


  1. Kent Duston, 16. March 2010, 17:38

    The acknowledgement by the Ministers responsible – finally! – that good urban design matters is a welcome development. There seems little value in building roads to the detriment of all the people who have to live and work and play and go to school in their immediate vicinity, particularly when better solutions are so apparent.

    While the costs are clearly higher for high-quality designs, it’s worth noting that most of the Roads of National Significance don’t make any economic sense – Transmission Gully alone is in the red by around $600 million. So if we’re going to abandon economic rationalism and cost/benefit analyses as our decision making tools (as this Minister has clearly done) then we should be able to insist that the better urban environment for Wellingtonians justifies the higher price tag.

    And hopefully we can get the same thinking applied to the Basin Reserve, where cut-and-cover tunnels will be a much better solution than a flyover ….

  2. David Stevens, 16. March 2010, 17:40

    Absolutely agree that Buckle St should be trenched under Tory AND Taranaki Streets. A great opportunity for this was wasted with the so-called by-pass, which should have been trenched from Buckle St to the Terrace Tunnel in the first place.

    The concept of further trenching around/under the Basin also has great merit as a much better alternative to a flyover.

  3. andy foster, 16. March 2010, 21:41

    Good news indeed ! Some of us at Council had been very clear that we didn’t see any point in a National Memorial Park being split in two by State Highway One, and the cut and cover option was very much our preference.

    As to taking it further – as David and Kent both say above, the best outcome from an urban form point of view was always to put SH1 in a trench from Terrace tunnel to the Basin and beyond. That foundered in the early 90s because it was unrealistically expensive for the funding then available. I recall an initial cost of around $135 million (in those days) compared to the bypass original estimate of $25 million. I also recall the Environment Court declaring that ‘there is an air of unreality’ (or words to that effect) about trenching (funding) at the time of the appeal/decisions about the amount of land to remain designated.

    As Kent says some of the RONS investments make no economic sense – anything with a benefit cost ratio less than one doesn’t from a transport economics point of view – unless you are trying to achieve something completely different. (eg a national park that works)

    The big difference between now and the early 90s is the amount of money being invested in transport (albeit largely focussed on RONS at the moment, though in Wellington and Auckland there is also major rail upgrading). Full hypothecation (all petrol taxes/road user charges etc going to transport instead of the Consolidated Fund) clearly helped a lot.

    There’s also a very big hole in the RONS thinking for Wellington. If the capacity of the entire network is increased massively, and all the previous deliberately retained choke points (the two tunnels and Ngauranga Gorge) have substantially increased capacity then the bypass – as the only status quo section on the network – will almost certainly struggle to cope. Whether all this investment makes sense is another matter – some parts will, some won’t.

    Warmest Regards

    Cr Andy Foster
    Urban Development Leader
    Wellington City Council

  4. The City is Ours Inc., 16. March 2010, 21:55

    The Netherlands have perfected the art of trenching roads for decades; in Amsterdam, a new underground extension to the Metro system, an eight year project to finish in 2015, is a welcome addition and preserves some old parts of the city.

  5. Peter Graham, 17. March 2010, 15:21

    It would of course be terrific to have a great memorial park in front of the unknown warrior’s grave by the Carillon. However it obviously makes sense to consider the proposed tunnel idea for the park with the proposed link with the Hataitai Tunnel, which might involve an overpass at the northern end of the Basin Reserve. To improve traffic flows to Wellington Airport, the regional hospital and the eastern suburbs, this link is vital. With luck, dealing with both together would reduce the overall cost and increase the chance of both going ahead.

  6. Kent Duston, 17. March 2010, 20:17

    Peter Graham – What you’re suggesting is in fact the scope of the so-called Basin Reserve traffic improvements (read: flyover) project. The impact of the designs on Memorial Park is already being taken into account, and these two areas are being considered as one.

    However if Buckle Street is trenched (and a damn good idea that is!) then the necessity for a flyover tends to go away. There’s no point in raising traffic up onto a flyover and then dropping it down again in a very short distance to head into the Buckle Street tunnel. So the at-grade ground level options look much more attractive, cost heaps less, and will be equally effective at solving the relatively minor congestion issues.

    And having set the stage for better urban design with Memorial Park, we can push for better urban design by trenching the roads on the south and east sides of the Basin, creating a green space running from St Marks all the way to Taranaki Street. Wellington truly would be a better place as a result.

  7. jack ruben, 18. March 2010, 14:33

    Good stuff Kent. Let’s hope those supporting the flyover will now be convinced to drop the idea, and support the trenching scheme.

  8. Trish, 18. March 2010, 20:37

    I can’t think what is wrong with having the road running through the Memorial Park. After the speeches, we can all charge “over the top” across the road to the National War Memorial. Some of us might not make it safely through the traffic, but the effort would remind those of us still standing of the hardships faced by those brave lads in the trenches during the Great War.