Next year will see some major projects nearing completion and creating a watershed moment in the history of Auckland.
Because of this transformation there seem to be road works everywhere but, as the old adage says, “to make an omelette, you must first break eggs”. In this case, all these works are leading to ever better facilities for walking and cycling; ever better public transport and a roading network that copes better with the ever increasing number of people of West Auckland.
When Auckland, the super city, was formed five years ago, one of the main drivers was the need to beat road congestion.
Ever since, Auckland Transport, NZTA (Government) and Auckland Council have been collaborating on the planning and delivery of better roads and attractive alternatives to the private car.
This year, in particular, the gains have been quite spectacular. For example, with a fully electrified rail network, this year Aucklanders and visitors took more than 15 million trips by rail and 81 million trips overall, on bus, rail and ferry and the number of passengers continues to grow.
This proves the truth in the cliche, “build it and they will come”. This should be even more true when the city’s underground rail link (CRL) between Mt Eden and Britomart is open, cutting an estimated 20 minutes off the trip time between Henderson and the CBD.
In terms of the roads, both the motorway system (owned and built by NZTA) and the city road network (owned and built by Auckland Transport (AT)), are designed to work together to produce the best results.
The biggest project is the huge western ring route that will eventually link Northland to the Waikato via the North Western Motorway, the new Waterview tunnels, Mangere and Manukau. This will enable motorists to completely by-pass the city if they choose and relieve pressure on existing motorways.
On a more day-today level, it will give Westies a faster route to the airport and to the south.
The improvements currently being made to the North Western motorway between Lincoln Road and Waterview, are key components in this new ring route.
During 2016, the upgrade of the causeway between Waterview and Te Atatu will be all but completed, ready for opening in early 2017. This month, in fact, we can expect to see the upgraded Te Atatu on and off ramps in operation and the new cycle underpass at Te Atatu opened as another link in the
North Western Cycleway.
Following a similar schedule to the causeway, are the completions of the Waterview tunnels themselves and the upgrade of Te Atatu Road. All are presently slated to be opened by early 2017, thus completing one of the biggest single improvements to the Auckland motorway system since it
was first built six decades ago.
The Te Atatu Road project will widen the road, remove the roundabout and replace it with traffic lights synchronised with all other traffic lights to improve the traffic flow.
Next year, new projects will also be starting. NZTA will start the process to upgrade the North Western Motorway between Lincoln Road and Westgate, a project that will widen the motorway, re-build the Royal Road Bridge and add even more extensions to the cycleway.
The Lincoln Road to Westgate section of motorway will complete the West Auckland sector of the ring route. Like the causeway, it will have dedicated bus shoulder lanes to speed the travel times for buses travelling between the West, the CBD and elsewhere in Auckland.
Buses will be provided on a new “hub and spoke” model and synchronise with train services. The aim is to create services so frequent you won’t need a timetable and so fast that they will be an attractive alternative to sitting in a car.
The “New Network” is expected to begin operations in the West sometime in the second half of 2016.
The widening of Fred Taylor Drive at Westgate, between Don Buck Road and the motorway is due for completion this month and a bus station for the New Network, is due to open in the Westgate Town Centre in October.
A new style of roundabout will also be investigated for the junction of Fred Taylor and Don Buck Roads.
During December, Auckland Transport will begin making preparations for the first stage of the Lincoln Road upgrade. As with Te Atatu Road, when the project goes ahead, Lincoln Road is to be widened, it will have two T3 lanes which can be used by buses and other passenger services such as taxis, private vehicles with three or more people, motor bikes and scooters. With fewer of these vehicles in the T3 lane, than in the general lane, traffic will move quicker, rewarding vehicles with several occupants. There will also be separated cycle lanes and improved footpaths.
The major new Te Whau Coastal Walkway linking Te Atatu and New Lynn will be progressed. Meanwhile AT plans to build a pedestrian and cycle bridge across the Whau River before the end of next year. All the cycleways will eventually link into one integrated network that will in time cover all of Auckland.