Wellington Scoop

Challenge to the Transport Agency: 49 “key issues” about the flyover proposal

flyover max
NZTA visual simulation amended by Maximus of eyeofthefish

by Lindsay Shelton
The DomPost, one of the cheerleaders for a $90m flyover at the Basin Reserve, has belatedly discovered that there are significant concerns about the plan.

It has reported that 49 key issues are listed in a peer review of the Transport Agency’s evidence in support of the flyover. The peer reviewers specify their concerns over the methods used by government officials to justify building the controversial flyover, says the DomPost:

Transport experts [who wrote the review] have described the logic used to eliminate other options including a tunnel as “inconsistent” and “difficult to follow”. They have also flagged the possibility that the flyover could present a safety risk to traffic, cyclists and pedestrians if it goes ahead as planned.

Thanks to the peer review, the DomPost has finally reported what the rest of us have always known – that the Transport Agency’s public consultation (giving the public a choice of a flyover or a flyover) was a flawed process. The peer reviewers have also stated clearly that a tunnel option at the Basin would be “better in every way, except cost” than the flyover, a statement which should be of concern to city councillors led by Andy Foster who were so quick to vote against it.

Here’s part of the DomPost’s Saturday report:

The biggest red flag was the way the Transport Agency ruled out other options [at the Basin Reserve] before seeking the public’s view on two flyover designs – one 20m north and the other 65m north of the Basin – in 2011.

The reviewers applied their own tests to about 10 alternatives and found two had equal merit. Both involved building new roads to the north and east of the Basin for state highway traffic. The reviewers were unsure why the alternatives had been discounted. They were also unsure why a tunnel was scrapped, as it was found to be better than a flyover in every way, except cost. Because the Transport Agency had not provided a detailed breakdown of its cost calculations for each option, the reviewers were unable to say if a tunnel was really that bad.

“The apparent inconsistency and lack of transparency in the underlying process . . . is a significant concern of the reviewers.” .

The peer reviewers have noted the Transport Agency’s single-mindedness about transport objectives. They have also written about its failure to give adequate consideration to the option of a tunnel. Here are some extracts from the review.

… While it is acknowledged that Social, Built Heritage and Urban Design are important evaluation criteria for any project, these matters are not reflected in the Project Objectives described in Section 4.4 of Technical Report 4 (TR4). The project objectives exclusively relate to transport outcomes around efficiency, economic growth, modal choice and safety improvements. Given the Project Objectives, the reviewers consider these matters should have been given greater weighting in the evaluation process and for that reason consider that Options C and D may have been dismissed from further consideration for reasons outside the project objectives.

In respect of the Social, Built Heritage and Urban Design evaluation criteria, it is unclear as to the basis for giving more weighting to Social and Urban Design criteria over Built Heritage. This particular decision appears to have been the sole factor which resulted in Options A and B being preferred over Options C and D, as Options A and B [the two flyover options] have Severe and Significant adverse effects on Built Heritage compared to Options C and D, yet only offer minor benefits in respect of social and urban design matters…

… Option A has moderate negative outcomes in respect of Built Heritage and Visual impacts and significant positive outcomes in respect of CPTED and Transport impacts. In comparison Option F [a tunnel] has moderate positive outcomes against all four criteria. TR19 contains a very brief discussion comparing the options pointing out the positive and negative aspects of Option F. It does not present an explicit conclusion regarding which option is preferred overall, although it is implicit that Option A is preferred.

In the opinion of the reviewers, Option F provides better overall outcomes to Option A in respect of the criteria it has been assessed against. However, it appears that Option F has not been selected on the basis of it being too expensive to construct….

…The apparent inconsistency and lack of transparency in the underlying process by which options have been compared at different stages of the project is of significant concern to the reviewers.

The peer review agrees with the Transport Agency that Option X should not be the preferred option. But it challenges the Agency’s costings “given that some options have been dismissed on the basis of construction cost alone:

In some cases options have been discounted due to their high construction costs. The breakdown of the cost estimates for Options A, F and X are provided in Appendix C of TR19. However, within the EPA application documents there is no detailed information provided to demonstrate how the indicative summarised costs were calculated. Whilst it is beyond the scope of this peer review to determine whether the estimated construction costs for each of the options have been calculated in an appropriate and equitable manner, it is important that a robust approach to calculating costs has been followed particularly given that some options have been dismissed on the basis of construction cost alone. A separate peer review may have been undertaken in relation to this but it is not evident within the application documents. We recommend that a peer review of the construction costs is completed if one has not already been carried out.

Wellingtonians who are opposing the flyover will be encouraged by the fact that the peer review reflects so many of their concerns. They will also have welcomed the fact that the review was prepared as the result of a request from the chair of the board of inquiry.

IN FULL: The peer review

The peer review wasn’t the only new flyover document that was released last week. On Wednesday we published some of the visual simulations prepared by the Transport Agency (also at the request of the board chairman) to give a more realistic idea of how badly the flyover would affect its neighbourhood. The DomPost, which often moves slowly these days, caught up with the visuals on Saturday. “Fresh views of the flyover raise fears,” said its headline. With such fears and so many concerns, let’s expect that the newspaper will soon reconsider its editorial stance, and join the ranks of those who have been opposing the flyover for so long. Its Saturday reports give it plenty of reason to do so.

Comment from Transport Blog


  1. Mark Harris, 2. December 2013, 12:08

    This is no surprise to those of us who have lived through the Mackays to Peka Peka and Otaki to Peka Peka fiascos. The same crappy analysis, designed to backfill a position already taken rather than lead to an optimal one, the same deceptive imagery, the same cherry picking of stats and the outright lies. It has become standard practice at NZTA.

  2. Nick, 2. December 2013, 13:46

    On one of the “after” visualisations they have even added in more pohutukawas on the Basin Embankment – I guess to show that the Basin will be completely screened from the road. It highlighted to me how the flyover is such a terrible solution to this problem. It ruins the basin, the local neighbourhood, and turns the eastern side of the Basin at ground level into a wasteland for peds and cyclists.

  3. Significant concerns are an understatement when viewing the gouging of one end of a beautiful inner city suburb by an unnecessary, outrageously-expensive concrete one-way Flyover. NZTA are only ever going to find adverse effects ‘minor,’ however severe.
    The Basin roundabout is not the problem, the Tunnel and Taranaki Street lights are.
    A cost effective solution would be Richard Reid’s alternative, which keeps everything at road level with the infrastructure hidden. A 21st century solution worthy of our ‘destination’ capital which would save Wellington from this Aucklandisation.

  4. Peter, 2. December 2013, 14:25

    Urgent!! See http://eyeofthefish.org/o-no-sunbathing/. Maximus has aced it on the ‘now certified accurate’ renders.

  5. erentz, 2. December 2013, 18:38

    Sadly with the Memorial Park underpass so far along it seems unlikely now that we can do a tunnel. It would probably require a lot of rework to lower this trench even further and wouldn’t be ready in time for the all important war commemorations next year (the stated reason why the Govt funded the memorial park part at the last minute without any real logic behind it was for this). If there was willingness to adjust the design of the duplicate Mt Vic tunnel as well it could lower the approach into the option F tunnel, making the geometry nicer, which was one of the issues also raised against a tunnel. Of course if you put all the ballooning packages of works together and see that you’re spending a billion dollars, I say screw the whole thing and build an end-to-end deep bore tunnel bypass in one go for SH1 that at the same time solves the problem of the Vivian St traffic sewer. [First posted on Transport Blog]

  6. Guy, 2. December 2013, 23:06

    I’m going to disagree with Erentz – I believe that the Memorial Park underpass is at the perfect stage to alter into a trench right down to the street level at Cambridge Tce. They’ve already dug deep enough for the Memorial Park to go on overhead, and they’ll be starting that work soon. But the actual angle of the road tunnel works out perfect to exit out to the east. Of course, they won’t do that, but for the timing of it – right now – the team is all in place, the sheet piles are in – it’d be a doddle. Certainly cheaper, and quicker than building an overpass. The only thing stopping them is a lack of political will. It’s much the same as the underpass itself – it was all “no way, too hard, too impossible” one day, and the next day (or year), it was “right-oh, we’re having a tunnel”.

  7. B Smyth, 3. December 2013, 6:11

    A cut and cover tunnel through the Basin from Adelaide Road – Cambridge Terrace would fix the traffic problem. The stands at the Basin Reserve are an embarrassment. We don’t need another stand to hide a flyover. We need to upgrade the ones we have got.

  8. Neil Douglas, 3. December 2013, 9:12

    Great comment B. Smyth

    Surely Bobcat Brownlee could organise some of his otherwise unemployed list MPs for a working-bee and get the ‘cut and cover’ between Adelaide Rd and Cambridge TCE done themselves. It is after all a National project dreamed up by Gerry and former pace man Stephen ‘Bodger’ Joyce.

    Gerry could also use his workskills to do some carpentry work on the Museum stand at the Basin Reserve.

    A win-win for everyone.

  9. Esjay, 3. December 2013, 12:39

    There’s no getting away from the fact that so far as NZTA is concerned this proposed construction is a “bridge”. The rest of us have been referring to it as a Flyover. It seems to me that the budget is set in stone for expenditure on this “bridge” come rain or shine. In the meantime severe traffic congestion continues on Ruahine Street each day with resultant frustration. It will only get worse until such time as either the second Mt Vic tunnel is completed, and the the correct solution to constructing a “bridge” or flyover is put in place. NZTA has thrown money at another grandstand for the Basin to mitgate an eysore to spectators who attend a fixture once or twice a year. The general public will witness this monster several times a day and in some cases all day long. NZTA has stuffed up in their costings, they should go back to the drawing board and come up with a solution that will alleviate traffic congestion without the current budget figure being the driver.

  10. lindsay, 3. December 2013, 12:45

    Esjay: your comment about the NZTA-financed grandstand is so relevant – it will benefit only a few people at a very few events per year, whereas for the rest of us there’ll be nothing to block the ugliness of the flyover (and the grandstand, blocking the viewshaft at the end of Kent/Cambridge Tces) which we’ll be condemned to see every day.

  11. Traveller, 3. December 2013, 13:11

    The Transport Agency has been conned into thinking they must hide their flyover from a few cricketers and cricket fans.But of course (even if they wanted to) there’s no way they could hide it from everyone else. Not that they care about us – the peer review describes how their focus is single-mindedly on transport objectives.

  12. erentz, 3. December 2013, 15:13

    Someone seems to have reposted a comment I made on transportblog.co.nz here on my behalf. I’m a bit perturbed by that, whoever did it I’m sure you had best intentions but please in future quote or reference someone else’s post, don’t repost on their behalf.

    Guy, I agree, if by some magic they were to start right now they could rework it from this stage. It would require deepening the existing piles driven to hold up the retaining walls so they don’t undermine them. I’m sure proper engineers know how to do this. The amount the existing trench would need to be lowered by to support Option X is considerable, but to support going down enough to tunnel under C/K Tce is a heck of a lot more. Doable. But not trivial. And only a possibility for a short time. Problem is I don’t think magic is going to happen on this until a change of govt next year. And by then it will be complete.