Southern Auckland and Manukau – An Omnibus – Post Budget

Takanini Interchange construction to be sped up

 

South Auckland Development with Wards and Boards close up 6 png mode

 

As announced in yesterday’s Budget a $375 million interest-free loan has been extended to NZTA to accelerate a group of mainly motorway projects in Auckland. I first made mention of the that particular announcement here: Takanini Interchange to be upgraded. In short the announcement in particular for the Southern Motorway mentioned:

Southern corridor motorway projects proposed for acceleration:

* Three-laning State Highway 1 southbound Hill Road to Takanini
* Six-laning State Highway 1 Takanini to Papakura
* Takanini northbound onramp improvements
* Takanini Interchange upgrade
* Four-laning State Highway 1 southbound, State Highway 20 to Hill Road
* Benefit-to-cost ratio: 6.8
* Proposed construction period: 2014/15 – 2016/17
* Expected cost: $210 million

[Source: “Budget 2014: Auckland transport projects get boost“ ]

Reaction has been mixed depending where it is coming from. Local elected representatives, myself, and a few on my Twitter feed support (for the most part) the acceleration of the upgrade especially the Takanini Interchange. Critics such as Transport Blog, their main supporters, and Generation Zero have condemned the upgrade down in the South although the condemnations have been mixed in as part of general criticisms against the entire Budget transport package for Auckland.

My own reaction is support of the Southern Motorway upgrade being accelerated to pretty much immediately but critical of the rest of the motorway projects further north which I agree with Transport Blog as not required (apart from the already widening on State Highway 1 near Albany). That said the 4-laning between Manukau and Hill Road off ramp for State Highway 1 southbound caught me by surprise and wonder is that really necessary. If the fourth lane was converted to a sole truck lane so that trucks from State Highway 20 could bypass the ramp signals and get to speed with State Highway 1 before merging back with general traffic at the Hill Road offramp area that would prove more beneficial than a general traffic lane. The 6-laning between Papakura and Takanini was going to happen as part of the upgrade package. I am more neutral towards that aspect of the upgrade rather than jumping up and down silly slamming it. Meaning either-way for that section of the upgrade I am not fussed if it gets down or not. The main “priority was the Hill Road to Takanini Interchange area which as of 2013 carries some 44,000 vehicles that includes some 3,600 heavy truck movements as well per day in one direction (so 88,000 approximate total or 7,320 heavy trucks (bit more heading north) which is now getting the upgrade much sooner than originally proposed (some time next decade)

For those who use public transport or are more pro-public transport down here in the South (I use both car and train on a regular basis) I do remind you that we also have public transport improvements on their way for the South as well. These include:

  • As a result of the certainty with the Takanini Interchange, Auckland Transport can start the work around upgrading the Great South Road in the area and adding those bus lanes (completion around 2017/18 when the interchange is done?) 
  • The Manukau South Rail Link is currently working through processes in the main Council rather than Auckland Transport. As I noted in an earlier post it illustrates we are going through the final hurdle to have the South Link built and running. A public announcement from Auckland Transport on the South Link was due in a few months
  • Modelling for the Pukekohe Electrification project which includes currently two new stations (Paerata and Drury) is about to get under way. With a bit of luck the wires should reach Pukekohe allowing the electrics to run there by 2017 at the latest (I believe the resources required for this project have already been set aside or nearly set aside)
  • Station upgrades as apart of a larger package continue. This does include Takanini Station and a revamp of the Papakura Station Park and Ride. More can be seen HERE
  • The new South Auckland Bus Network starts next year with improved and more frequent bus services for the South. This includes feeder services to rail and/or transport interchanges and “through” buses such as the 33 Great South Road service 
  • The Southern Line gets the electric trains next year and with it at least 15 minute all day frequencies. You can see more on this HERE. Although that said without the third main we are still prone to freighters breaking down as people found out this morning and I did yesterday.
  • In regards to the bus lanes around the Great South Road in Takanini I will be flicking an email to Auckland Transport on any updated stand on this from them next week. The current bus lane intention stems from a previous conversation I had with them at the time the South Auckland Bus Network was out for consultation.

 

I know the Government is still holding fast to the City Rail Link start date of 2020 and has not put any more money forward in this Budget. While I am somewhat disappointed I am not particularly surprised nor expecting money being set for the CRL this round. That said I still hold out that the CRL construction date will be around the 2017 mark in the end

Glenora Station is still bogged down in bureaucracy owing to the Walters Road level crossing separation issue. While it frustrates me to no ends of the Earth there is pretty much nothing more I can do (in spamming emails) until Auckland Transport make their public announcement around the Level Crossing Strategy later this year.

Also looking at current Unitary Plan trends I noted the following in regards to the South through the life of the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan

  • Southern Auckland (defined as Otahuhu (south of Portage Road) and the former Manukau City, Papakura and Franklin District Council areas pre Super City) currently houses 38% of Auckland’s total population. This on current trends (see below) will move to 45% by 2042 – the end of the current Unitary Plan
  • Southern Auckland currently houses two heavy industrial complex sites (not including the Glenbrook Steel Mill) and numerous light industrial sites. By 2042 Southern Auckland will house three heavy industrial complexes with Drury South on stream by then
  • Southern Auckland contains the largest amount of potential Greenfield urban development through the Future Urban Zone and the Rural Urban Boundary compared to the North and North-West of Auckland
  • Potential for intensification in existing areas of Southern Auckland could be quite high (definitely higher than the Isthmus currently). We will need to see how the final version of the Unitary Plan zones turn out when the plan becomes operative in 2016
  • Southern Auckland contains realistically and technically Auckland’s only second tier city centre after the main tier one City Centre/CBD – the Manukau City Centre. Manukau has the high potential to be Auckland’s first Super Metropolitan Centre resulting in the development of a higher density “hub” for the South than the other Metropolitan Centres
  • Southern Auckland is the main gateway (housing the airport, rail line, and State Highway One) to Waikato and further south as well as internationally. As a result of this (and the high potential of inter-regional urban development between Auckland and Hamilton) higher amounts of people and freight movement is noted (which includes freight going from Wiri to Port of Auckland further north)

 

Because of the above investment in both the public transport network and the State Highway network in the South is needed if we do not want to be clogged up and suffer in efficiencies. My previous Omnibus post which I will stick in its entirety below illustrates the situation down here:

 

Southern Auckland and Manukau – An Omnibus #3

A Recap Series

 

The Takanini Interchange

 

Time to do some recaps of a few posts I have done on Southern Auckland and both its urban development plus transport potential. In the first ‘Southern Auckland and Manukau – An Omnibus‘ post I recapped on the need for the Manukau South Rail Link (in spite of opposition from an unusual quarter) to allow high-speed, high-capacity and good frequency train services between Manukau City Centre and the rest of Southern Auckland down to Pukekohe. In the second “Southern Auckland and Manukau – An Omnibus” post I looked back at the evolution of my advocacy of bring Manukau into the 21st Century as a Super Metropolitan Centre – rather than some just other Metropolitan Centre as destined in the Auckland Plan.

In this post I will take a look at a pet peeve of Southern Auckland; that horrid stretch of State Highway One between Manukau and Takanini.

The Manukau to Takanini Motorway Saga

 

Situation: When the State Highway 20 Manukau extension was complete it was triumphed by the New Zealand Transport Agency that not only did the interchange have five years capacity in it before the State Highway One needed upgrading, but the local roads that have been so long congested would be free at last.

Reality: On day one the new State Highway 20 Manukau extension (so the SH1/20 interchange) reach capacity exacerbating the already congested State Highway One to the point NZTA had to put in ramp signals on the interchange. Couple of days later everyone else pretty much goes rat running again on the local roads to try to beat the interchange congestion so we are back at square one. Cue the slow clap.

The Problem: NZTA forgot (no other way to put it) to upgrade State Highway One from the Manukau Interchange down to the Takanini Interchange where the congestion is. Even before the Manukau Interchange was completed State Highway One was already congested as it dropped from three lanes to two lanes at the Hill Road off-ramp plus Takanini Interchange not being the best for efficiently taking traffic off the motorway causing further congestion. And all this just for the southbound side. Northbound you main problem rests back at the Takanini Interchange itself. Anyone who has entered the motorway from Takanini going north knows of the tight and uphill gradient of an on ramp which means both cars and trucks do not have the opportunity to apply power so they can get up to speed with the rest of the motorway traffic. What makes the northbound situation worse is the merging lane is very short so you still can not get to power and the speed needed to be with the already existing motorway traffic. Consequences? Congestion and a very hazardous situation with heightened risks of nose to tails.

 

The Numbers

Check page 28 of NZTA’s State Highway Traffic Data for the Southern Motorway (SH1) between Manukau and Takanini

Between the two sections going southbound some 56,800 vehicles (drops to 46,000 at Takanini with 12,800 vehicles using the off ramp) use a section of motorway that drops from 5 lanes to 2 lanes in the space of about one kilometre. Northbound some 11,300 vehicles enter the motorway at Takanini contending with that sharp hairpin and short merging bay onto the 2 lane section of motorway before hits three lanes some 200 metres further north. On these numbers alone you can see why we have the chronic congestion.

 

Solution

Simple really. Three lanes from Hill Road to Takanini Interchange heading south while the third lane heading north is brought right back to the on ramp itself so the existing motorway does not get caught by entering traffic. The Takanini Interchange itself will need upgrading with the southbound off ramp doubled in length to allow traffic to exit the motorway safely AND slow down as they prepare to enter the Great South Road. While the northbound side will prove interesting owing to the grade needed to get above the rail line although you could go underneath it if it weren’t for Papakura Stream just on the other side. That said bringing the third lane back to the on ramp and have it “separated” from the existing motorway traffic for about 300 metres so that the entering traffic can at least get to some decent speed before the changing lanes game would go some distance in removing the bottleneck we currently face.

It is also to note that until NZTA upgrade the Takanini Interchange, Auckland Transport will not proceed with upgrades along the Great South Road in the area which includes the addition of bus lanes for the new 33 Great South Road service from next year. So even public transport is “stuck” until NZTA decide to move…

 

2015/16

2015/2016 is when the upgrade to Takanini Interchange and the 3-lane-ing between Manukau and Takanini on the Southern Motorway is meant to happen. Looking at the 2012-2022 (draft) Regional Land Transport Program the upgrades were meant to be done already (check page 50 or 51) View this document on Scribd

When the 2015-2025 RLTP comes out it will be interesting to see where this necessary and vital upgrade gets placed. I hope like anything this upgrade will be completed by the end of 2016 not only for the South’s sake and sanity but also for the economy. Despite what some opposing quarters say this section of motorway is a vital inter city link between Auckland and the rest of the nation. Yes it carries 56,000 vehicles of which 8.2% (around 4,600) are heavy trucks but no amount of public transport investment on its own will fix this bottleneck. This upgrade is designed to keep traffic moving at whatever speed efficiently rather than the stop-start jerking motion we have now. Furthermore upgrading Takanini would allow traffic to leave the motorway more efficiently and safely than now. Also remember not everyone can take public transport and not all freight can be moved by rail in this “just-in-time” era.

Upgrading Takanini and having three lanes all the way to Takanini from Manukau for efficiency and safety sakes seems logical. Furthermore if State Highway One is flowing efficiently then the rat running we see back on the local roads should be minimised. That said the Manukau South Link and possible the Botany Sky Train might also go some distance in traffic relieve as well. And as I said earlier the upgrading of Takanini allows Auckland Transport to upgrade the Great South Road and get those much required bus lanes in for the 33 bus service due to start next year. Win-win-win for everyone all round.

 

Suppose the ultimate question is what will I be writing in 12 months time. Praising NZTA for getting the upgrade under way, or slamming them for more delays

 

——————

 

Hmm looking at that question two weeks ago it seems it will be praise unless someone bottles it and caused a hold up.

 

Further reporting from the NZ Herald on Budget – Auckland’s Transport can be seen here:

Budget 2014: Buses and trains lose out to roading projects

 

 

At the end of the day this is not a perfect world and nor should I expect one. This comes to Budgets and where the money is being allocated on what transport projects as well. Yes I would have liked some money going to the City Rail Link and a heck of a load less going to other motorway projects apart from the Southern upgrade which out of all of them I deem essential. However, overall I am not going to go jumping up and down while kicking sand everywhere going the Transport Budget is [insert negative and derogatory word here]. Weighing up the positives against the negatives as well as what the future holds for Auckland (as in my own evaluations) I give the transport situation (stemming from both the Budget and what is either happening or going to happen with public transport projects) more of a thumbs up than a thumbs down especially for the South. To say otherwise would be very inconsistent with my submission to the now operative Auckland Plan.(which feeds into my Unitary Plan views and advocacy). For sure some parts from the transport wish list in my submission have altered as time and reality draws on but my own views around Climatic Change and the future of the car still stand firm.

In any case I better go email NZTA and Auckland Transport on some follow ups as a result of The Budget.