Keith Rankin's Thursday Column

 Motorway Madness

 11 October 2002

John Banks wants to give Auckland a triple by-pass. Imagine a doctor telling a patient with blocked arteries that she must wait 15 years for a triple by-pass, when the alternative single bypass could be achieved much sooner.

Auckland doesn't need to complete a grandiose network of motorways. All it needs is to complete a couple of motorways that are already half built. Yet the completion of the only genuine by-pass that will clear Auckland's traffic woes (the South- Western motorway; SH20) has been relegated to the third leg of Bank's triple. In the meantime, we will waste an awful lot of economic resources on an environmental eyesore of a road - The John Banks Memorial White Elephant, otherwise known as the Eastern Motorway - that could never be economically justified if SH20 had been completed.

In the meantime, the other critical project, the half-completed extension of the northern motorway has stalled, with completion put off well until the 2010s. What's the point of having an Orewa by-pass that simply ends in the back 'suburbs' of Orewa? It's a bit like doing half of Transmission Gully and then getting bored and building a bridge over Cook Strait instead.

That's the trouble with Auckland. We oscillate between grandiose schemes and inertia. Inertia wins just about every time. So the simple tasks that could easily be done are just left, making them harder and harder, as the years pass, to complete.

There are hidden agendas. Some people want more bridges and/or a tunnel under the Waitemata Harbour. Such projects are massively expensive and would achieve absolutely nothing. Nevertheless the Eastern motorway has been given priority because (I believe), by channelling extra traffic that doesn't want to go to the city centre into the city centre, Transit New Zealand will be blackmailed into building a Harbour Tunnel.

Likewise, SH20 (the only new road Auckland needs) is not scheduled for completion until about 2015. The real reason for the delay is that some faceless people would prefer it to be routed back towards Herne Bay (to the near-west of the city centre) instead of along the obvious route to the North-West and the upper harbour. These are the people who want a monument in the form of a second bridge just to the west of the present (lower) Harbour Bridge.

If they don't get their way, they will probably be suggesting an Eastern Orbital motorway via Waiheke and Rangitoto Islands (no doubt with special parking bays for America's Cup viewing).

Auckland could become a great city if only the starry-eyed monument-builders could be sent packing. Auckland does not need "the completion of the [grandiose] motorway network". It just needs a couple of existing roads to be finished. That and a simple rail alternative, with adequate rolling stock providing a frequent service on existing track.

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© 2002   Keith Rankin

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