Funding Transport In Auckland

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In a Herald article last Friday, Transport Minister Steven Joyce came out with the following straw man argument:

“I don’t think anyone would buy the suggestion that that very, very expensive project should just be paid for by road users,” he said.

In response, Transport Minister Steven Joyce is right,  but no-one is suggesting that the CBD Rail Link should just be paid for by road users.

However Minister Joyce must be aware that public transport infrastructure can significantly benefit road users, and on that basis some level of funding commitment from the National Land Transport Fund, which raises $2.8bn annually from petrol excise and road user charges, is entirely appropriate.

The precedent for this is the Northern Busway. This quarter billion dollar project was jointly funded from the National Land Transport Fund and the North Shore City Council and has eased congestion levels across the Harbour Bridge to the significant benefit of motorists.

Similarly the CBD Rail Link will not only double capacity of the entire rail network and offer significant travel time saving benefits to public transport users, but it will also benefit road users as well by taking a significant number of cars off the roads at peak times.

Contrary to what Minister Joyce says, Auckland City has already established that no roading based solution will offer anywhere near the benefits of the CBD Rail Link.

If Minister Joyce insists on having sole discretion on how our fuel taxes are used, he needs to work constructively to find alternative transport funding solutions for Auckland.

How Much Will The Puhoi Wellsford Toll Be?

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Discussion last week focussed on Len Brown apparently thowing away a valuable point of negotiation in the fight for rail funding, little has been said on the comments of PM John Key.

John Key is being disingenuous when he claims the Puhoi to Wellsford motorway “was something National campaigned on”.

 National clearly did not campaign on the construction of a new $1.6bn toll road between Puhoi and Wellsford, just as it did not campaign on diverting up to $340m of public transport funding and $150m of local road funding to the Roads of National Significance.

The phrase “Roads of National Significance” was not even invented until well after the election.

The Government needs to come clean and tell people how much the toll will be for users of the new Puhoi to Wellsford motorway, and what safety upgrades are planned for the existing State Highway One.

Work Begins on Finding Best Route for $2bn Highway

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The Herald reports that:

Early community consultations are expected on route preferences for a new “road of national significance” costing up to $2 billion between Puhoi and the north of Wellsford.

That follows the Transport Agency’s awarding last week of a contract worth to $12 million for route investigation work on a proposed 38km link, entailing a four-lane extension of the Northern Gateway toll motorway to Warkworth and a dual-carriage expressway beyond that.

The investigation, by engineering and environmental specialists Sinclair Knight Mertz, is expected to take 15 months, but agency acting regional director Tommy Parker said he would be “disappointed if we are not talking about [route] options before about the middle of the year”.

 The Transport Agency fudges the poor economics of the project by saying:

…the figures were calculated by discounting the benefits at a standard 8 per cent each year after the road opens, a rate it sees as more appropriate to short-term projects.

It says if a 4 per cent discount rate could be used to reflect the longevity of the road, the economic returns could rise to $2 for every $1 spent.

I actually feel a bit for the NZTA here, basically being forced to justify a totally uneconomic project to satisfy the whims of the Minister of Transport.

Puhoi Wellsford Motorway

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Danielle Williamson’s well informed article on the proposed Puhoi to Wellsford motorway concluded that, mainly for reasons of road safety, the 35km stretch of road should be divided into a “proper motorway”.

However, doing so would be extraordinarily costly and technically challenging. Just the first section alone, between Puhoi and Warkworth, will not be completed for at least nine years, even if it were tolled.

We need to objectively consider the best use of an apparent budget of $2.3bn, rather than adopt an all-or-nothing approach.

For instance, the worst of the accident black spots could be upgraded to a higher standard far sooner than nine years from now. A Warkworth bypass could be built, perhaps to an expressway standard. The rail line to Northland could be repaired so that it is once again capable of carrying freight in a timely manner, reducing the number of large trucks on SH1.

It would be prudent to at least consider these alternatives, especially considering the likelihood of higher petrol prices in the next few years.

Economic Benefits of “Roads Of National Significance” Unknown

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Official Information Act Request Reveals Economic Assessment “Several Months” Away

It was revealed today that the Government’s “Roads of National Significance”, which includes the latest Waterview motorway option along with six other motorway plans around the country, have yet to pass any economic assessment.

In March of this year the Government announced the seven roading projects were “essential routes that required priority treatment” and would “support economic growth”, however the Campaign for Better Transport has received confirmation from the New Zealand Transport Agency that “corridor benefit cost ratios” for each route will take “several months to complete for all seven of the Roads of National Significance.”

Campaign For Better Transport spokesperson Cameron Pitches said this raises serious questions about the decision last week by Minister of Transport Steven Joyce to commit an additional $1bn to state highway projects over the next three years, bringing total funding to around $3bn.

The funding boost has been achieved by deep cuts to public transport, walking and cycling, demand management, local roading and project monitoring budgets.

“On the one hand the Minister of Transport is on record saying that he ‘supports transport infrastructure projects that make at least some sort of economic sense’, and on the other he has advanced billions of dollars to new state highway projects without knowing any of the costs or benefits. He can’t have it both ways,” said Mr Pitches. Read the rest of this entry »

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