Tunnel timing crucial
CAN Auckland build quick enough to match its expected population boom?
It’s a question on the minds of city leaders as the additional Waitemata Harbour crossing project slowly edges forward.
Route protection for twin tunnels under the harbour is under way.
The work was put on the backburner last year.
Transport minister Simon Bridges says new investigations will consider heavy rail in the tunnels for freight.
The crossing option was announced in 2013 and is expected to cost between $4 billion and $6b.
Bridges says the tunnel will likely be needed between 2025 and 2030.
But a start date on construction will depend on factors such as growth in traffic and freight.
Albert-Eden-Roskill councillor Christine Fletcher says Auckland needs to focus on building infrastructure fast enough to meet population estimates. The city expects an influx of about one million people by 2045.
Fletcher believes communities south of Papakura will also be inundated with new residents.
Making sure people are connected via transport links is key, she says.
‘‘All of these things are part of getting Auckland to work.
‘‘I see it as a major priority because we’re not just looking at vehicular transport.
‘‘We’ve also got to look at the south and say, how can we futureproof?’’
Electrification of rail lines to Pukekohe will enable Auckland to operate better, she says.
Tim Coffey of the Auckland CBD Residents Advisory Group says the crossing may not be used to capacity when built.
He says alternative transport modes may be more popular by then and car numbers may go down.
Both the CRL and crossing could reduce traffic on busy inner-city roads, he says.
‘‘But until we actually solve the public transport riddle, and that includes the CRL, we won’t actually know the volume of traffic to be reduced on CBD roads.’’
Maungakiekie-Tamaki councillor Denise Krum says the additional crossing is interlinked with the City Rail Link project.
Krum says she wants details from the Government about the timing and funding for both projects.
‘‘Commuter residents in my ward will likely experience more benefit from the rail link and there are still questions to hammer out with the Government on that.’’
Green MP and transport spokeswoman Julie-Anne Genter says the tunnel ‘‘doesn’t make sense unless the CRL is built first’’.
Britomart needs to be expanded first, otherwise the system will not work, she says.
Orakei councillor Cameron Brewer says the crossing will be needed in the next 10 to 15 years.
It is not on council’s agenda right now ‘‘ but we do need to start advocating for the advancement of another harbour crossing as soon as work on the City Rail Link gets under way’’.
‘‘The CRL is not the only project this council should be talking to Wellington about.’’
The project is a disappointment for environmental group Generation Zero.
Spokesman Sudhvir Singh says traffic over the bridge has flat-lined, according to the NZ Transport Agency’s own research. The money should be put into improving public transport, he says.
Mayor Len Brown says work on the crossing will not start until the CRL is done and he has no concerns the project will take attention away from the CRL.
Double vision: The proposed route for the additional Waitemata Harbour crossing.
Councillor Christine Fletcher
Big strain: The Waitemata Harbour tunnel is projected to take the pressure off the Auckland Harbour Bridge.