Tun­nel tim­ing cru­cial

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By JESS ETHERIDGE

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.

Al­bert-Eden-Roskill coun­cil­lor

Christine Fletcher

Dou­ble vi­sion: The pro­posed route for the ad­di­tional Waitem­ata Har­bour cross­ing.

Coun­cil­lor Christine Fletcher

MPJulie-Anne Gen­ter

Photo: SIMON MAUDE

Big strain: The Waitem­ata Har­bour tun­nel is pro­jected to take the pres­sure off the Auck­land Har­bour Bridge.

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