City’s backing for surface/tunnel plan riles locals

Mathew Dearnaley reports on the Auckland City Council’s preference for a “surface-tunnel” option for the Waterview Motorway.  From the Herald:

Auckland City’s transport committee has infuriated communities in the path of the Waterview motorway by supporting the Government’s preference for a revised “surface-tunnel” option.

“I’m absolutely gutted by the response from our council – I think they have been irresponsible,” Margi Watson, Waterview-based spokesman of the Tunnel or Nothing protest group, said yesterday.

“The council was elected to represent the interests of communities, not the Government.”

Members of the ruling Citizens and Ratepayers bloc, led by Deputy Mayor David Hay, outvoted minority City Vision and independent councillors in backing the revised scheme, which the Transport Agency estimates will cost $1.4 billion.

That differs from the council’s previous support for a pair of deep tunnels to carry traffic along most of a 4.5km link between the Southwestern and Northwestern Motorways, and will provide extra comfort to the agency’s board when it meets in Auckland late this month to approve the new plan.

City Vision councillor Cathy Casey said the council had “let down the people of Waterview and is no more than a puppet of the National Government” and teammate Graeme Easte warned of high mitigation costs from a project he claimed would undermine a key council policy of building stronger communities.

Leaders of the Eden-Albert and Western Bays community boards have also lashed out at the decision.

But transport committee chairman Ken Baguley said the previous Labour-led Government provided no funds for the costlier twin tunnels, which were not without their environmental challenges, including vehicle emissions.

He said the motorway link was needed to deliver $800 million of annual economic benefits from completing the ring route.

Given that there was no chance of persuading the Government to resurrect the twin tunnels, the council needed to concentrate on ensuring communities affected by the new scheme received fair compensation and mitigation.

The new scheme compares with a Treasury estimate of $2.77 billion for the twin tunnels, although that included $554 million in financing charges absent from the revised version.

It will include a 1.15km bored tunnel between Owairaka and Avondale Heights and a 700m covered trench beneath Great North Rd, with a strong likelihood the two structures will be joined to keep traffic underground for more than 2km. It will also keep the traffic further from the bush-clad lower reaches of Oakley Creek than other cheaper options, one of which would have entailed a 520m viaduct.

But it will involve demolishing up to 365 homes, as well as slicing through more than 1km of upstream green space in Owairaka.

The city council’s urban design review team is not satisfied the lower creek will survive unscathed, saying in a report that it was concerned to learn concrete “boxes” for the motorway trench under the Great North Rd ridge-line might be wider than first thought.

“We consider this could have a severe adverse impact on the corridor, with serious consequences for Oakley Creek, and is likely to mean an over-scale road on top of the motorway boxes that cannot deliver a best-practice liveable arterial.”

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