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'Enclosed' Basin Reserve flyover option shaping up

13 December 2008                                            
'Enclosed' Basin Reserve flyover option shaping up
Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast says the option of a raised road to separate traffic heading around the Basin Reserve appears to be the best of a number of early options being considered to streamline public transport and cross-town traffic.
While planning is still very much in the early stages, Mayor Prendergast says she wants and expects to see the project progress quickly. “This project is absolutely critical to Wellington’s future. We need to free up traffic flow to and from key sites around the city, and make this junction easier to use for other road-users such as walkers and cyclists, too.”
Mayor Prendergast says the three parties involved in the project – Wellington City Council, the New Zealand Transport Agency and Greater Wellington – agreed this is a high priority for the region, as part of the recent Ngauranga-Airport Transport Study.
“We have a major – and growing – airport that relies on ease of access, so from an economic development point of view, we simply cannot delay. Other important regional sites such as the hospital also rely on us getting this right. 
“Doing nothing about our growing traffic problems and public transport bottleneck at the Basin Reserve is not an option.”
Mayor Prendergast says that, contrary to recent media reports, there is a great deal of support for the flyover option. “I’m hearing a lot of support from the business sector, and the Ngauranga-Airport Transport Study included a public survey that found 67% of people supported a flyover adjacent to the Basin.”
Mayor Prendergast says one of the ‘bottom-line’ agreements between Greater Wellington Regional Council, the City Council and the NZ Transport Agency is that the ambience and relative tranquility of the Basin Reserve will not be compromised by any changes to the road.
“That’s why we’re looking at ideas such as enclosing the flyover within buildings and other structures. Such an approach would be aimed at removing visual and noise impacts.
“But it is very early days in terms of design concepts – and all sorts of ideas are up for grabs and being discussed.”
In conjunction with the Basin Reserve Trust, the City Council is a guardian of the Basin Reserve and, as such, would not be party to any work around the ground that would ruin its status as one of the world’s oldest and best cricket venues.
The problem with the Basin is that it is already at the centre of one of the world’s largest traffic roundabouts. Apart from the meeting of State Highways 1 and 2 at the foot of the Ngauranga Gorge, it is the region’s busiest traffic junction. However, unlike the Ngauranga Gorge, the Basin roundabout is also on the main bus route serving the city’s southern and eastern suburbs and has to also accommodate cyclists, pedestrians, cricket fans and the Basin’s neighbours – including three schools and Government House.
Mayor Prendergast says there is no option of going underground, so the remaining options are a series of ‘at-grade’ possibilities that would keep the road junction at ground-level, or some raised-road options
“Our early studies of the pros and cons of different options leads us to a flyover or raised road as the best option. It would have far less impact on the area than a ground-level junction.
“The engineers and urban designers say a ground-level junction designed to accommodate increased traffic flows, while at the same time speeding up public transport around the Basin, would blight the neighbourhood terribly.
“It would turn the area to the north of the Basin into one very large, complicated, traffic intersection with multiple sets of traffic lights. It would be very difficult to make it work for traffic, public transport, cyclists and pedestrians.
“It would turn an area that’s already dominated by traffic into something far worse – certainly not a suitable northern entranceway to the Basin.”
A flyover, on the other hand, would carry westbound traffic from the Mt Victoria tunnel over the traffic heading to and from Adelaide Road and the southern suburbs. It would remove the ‘choke point’ around the Basin and make movement far easier for public transport, cyclists and pedestrians heading north and south.
It would also more effectively leave open the possibility that, in the future, light-rail tracks could be installed on the north-south route without the problem of trains having to cross State Highway 1 - the city’s principal east-west route.
Mayor Prendergast says that despite the installation of traffic lights around the Basin, traffic congestion is steadily worsening, especially during rush-hours midweek and during the day at weekends. The conflict between State Highway 1 traffic heading to and from the Mt Victoria Tunnel, and traffic heading to and from the southern suburbs, means rush-hour travel is a misery for most – including bus passengers who are caught in the snarl-ups.
The Basin Reserve has been causing headaches for transport planners for decades, because the principal east-west/north-south junction cannot be shifted anywhere else.
The Basin Reserve Trust has indicated that it supports improvements to traffic flow around the ground – including a possible flyover - provided there are adequate design features to mitigate its effects on the ground. It has already been proposed that a third grandstand could be built on the north side of the ground – as much to increase the seating capacity of the Basin as to block any view of a raised roadway.
Mayor Prendergast says she wants to see the Basin project ready to go as soon as possible. Plans are underway to consult with the public in the first half of next year on a number of options.

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