Sunday, September 12, 2010

Owen McShane: No Access Ramps between Orewa and Warkworth

The proposed Puhoi to Wellsford Highway should greatly enhance the connectivity of the Auckland and Northland economies. We are learning that networks are now more important in establishing urban primacy than size alone. But the potential benefits of this new element in the roading network are seriously compromised by the decision to have no access or exit ramps between the Orewa roundabout and Warkworth. This is not an engineering decision but is based on the Auckland Regional Growth Strategy which has determined that there shall be no growth between these two access points and hence there is no need for ramps.

It seems remarkable that some Smart Growth documents generated by Councils that will be soon be non-existent should determine such an inefficient use of this proposed major road, which should surely be enabled to deliver its benefits to the economy in return for the invested costs. These "Growth Centre" decisions by the ARGS Smart Growth planners are the reason there are no plans for any entry or exit ramps between Orewa and Warkworth. That's about 25 km – without any chance to enter or leave the motorway. This must be a world first for such a rural highway through such attractive scenery.

Orewa is about 37 km north of Auckland City.

The ramps at Drury are about 36 km south of Auckland City. The access ramps as Drury and Ramarama are only 6km apart; the Ramarama and Bombay (Mill Rd) ramps are only 7 km apart; the Mill Road and Beaver Road ramps are only 2.0km apart. The total length of motorway for these three sets of ramps is only 15km; an average distance between ramps of only 5km.

Similar distances between ramps in peripheral rural areas appear to be the norm in California (See Highway 101 around Chualar and Gonazeles) and Texas. (see Highway 45 around Madisonville.)

Can we, in New Zealand, really afford to build a motorway which denies access to any settlement for 25 km? Is this an efficient use of our limited financial resources?

Look at what this means in daily life.

If the people in Puhoi want to use the safe speedy motorway to drive to Warkworth they have to drive back through Waiwera and Hatfield's Beach to Orewa, and then East to the motorway – a backward drive of 15.5 km. Then they can drive the 20km to Warkworth – a total of say 35 km for what should be a 16 km trip. Obviously they will continue to use SH1 which will take them to Warkworth and will gain no benefit from the new motorway.

Similarly they will have to drive back 16 km North to Warkworth or detour through Wairera, Hatfields Beach, and Orewa and back to the interchange to gain access to the Motorway to drive to Auckland. This is why the residents of Puhoi want to retain their easy access to the Tunnel which only 2km up the road.

Is this the most efficient way to get their cheese to market?

However, if the 1000 residents of Puhoi want this access they will have to abandon their opposition to development anywhere else between the tunnel and Warkworth. They will have to learn to share the ramps with people from Mahurangi, Pukapuka, and Jamieson Bay.

If the plan is to keep all the countryside between the tunnel and Warkworth exclusively for sheep and cattle the present plan will work. But why would we want to do that?

New economic activity driven by improved access and connectivity can take some time to emerge following construction of a major motorway of this kind. However, there could be a huge amount of economic activity triggered by a simple change of NZTA and Council policies once the decision is made to build the Motorway to complement the existing State Highway one.

There are hundreds, or probably thousands, of properties with either direct frontage to SH 1, or with access to SH1 from minor side roads. Many of the owners of these properties have had plans for new activities, or new residential developments, or simple extensions and additions to their existing business – farming, horticulture, food processing, health spas, bed and breakfast, motor home parks, farm-stays, industrial estates, or whatever.
However, when they go to apply for a resource consent they are always referred to the NZ Transit Agency if their proposal will generate any extra traffic load on the highway. Their proposal is either rejected or the costs of providing the waiting/turning lanes and the massive street crossings are too high for the project to sustain. So they go on hold.

Consequently, if by the end of the year Government announced its determination to build the New Highway to the North it should make a second announcement that all NZTA restrictions on access to State Highway 1 were now waived and such matters of access now rested entirely with the territorial local authorities. Those councils would develop the appropriate engineering standards or planning rules with NZTA but NZTA would be removed from deciding on applications.

A thousand flowers would immediately bloom.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

We seem to have overlooked vehicle safety. How many times have you observed the remains of a truck tire on teh motorway, a boat trailer or caravan stranded or even a car in trouble with something as small as a broken fan belt. Occassionally a transport laod will become unfastened by the vibrations of transit and require refastening sometimes reloading. Logically a percentage of vehicles can limp off an off ramp to either stop in a safe place for repairs, assitance, load adjustment etc, or move at a very slow but safe pace to a place of repair or assistance. To have 26kms between access points is against all sence in ensuring motorists in transit are prtected from those incidents of vehicles being stopped and requiring assistance. Perhaps one might also ask how many deaths will result as the whole 26kms becomes clogged with stopped vehicles as a result of some incident, how in all reality will emergeny vehicles transit to the site of that emergency if 10 20 or 26kms is blocked with no exit bypass to relive traffic congesion in emergency. I say this design has insufficient attention to safety and rather by ideology, too much design engineered towards private toll operation which would be consistent with a 26km tolled stretch. The public is taxed, tolled and robbed blind, safety is out the window,
The legacy of Dick Turpin lives on.

Anonymous said...

Maybe a few more bureaucratic institutions need to be dismantled as happened to Ecan in order to get rid of log jams to real progressive thinking.

Owen McShane said...

Thanks for the feedback.
I shall incorporate it into my NBR column for Friday.

Owen McShane said...

It seems that the NZTA is reconsidering and there will at least be ramps serving Puhoi and maybe more.

Anonymous said...

In terms of tolling, it actually makes more sense to retain access at Puhoi in the form of a full movement (north and southbound off ramps, and north and southbound on ramps).

Currently there is a toll on one section of motorway between two interchanges (Orewa and the present terminus north of the tunnels.) One pays a $2 toll use this 7.5km section, which cost $365 million to build.

Extending the motorway northwards to Warkworth without providing an intermediate access point will mean that the tolled section will be around 25-26km. This extension will probably cost around $1 billion, meaning the total cost of the tolled section will be about $1.36 billion or so.

To get the same return on investment as the current arrangement will mean a fourfold increase in tolling - say to $8. At this level there will be a lot of consumer and political resistance. I would say anything much beyond $5 right now would be pushing things.

Including an interchange at Puhoi means that the two sections are split, and each section can be tolled independently. Say $2.50 for the existing section (in 2019) and $3.50 for the new section. $6 total with a lot less fuss.

trigger said...

im in warkworth and drive to auckland everyday i know 100% we dont need this road it only takes 30 - 40 minits drive in a van who needs to save 5 minits drive that bad this is crazy and for the 55 people that have to move your forgetting the 100s of home that will be looking at this crap we are a town not a city keep it this way we are happy