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Opinion - Don’t build your way out of traffic problems

Opinion - Don’t build your way out of traffic problems

Most of the world has figured out that creating bigger, wider, additional roads does not fix traffic problems. It only makes it worse as it encourages more traffic. Transmission Gully will be an example of this. At best it will get people faster to the big bottlenecks that will happen as they get to Wellington or the Hutt. It will encourage more cars on the road at a time when we should be doing the opposite to avoid the impending disastrous effects of global warming.

It is no surprise therefore that the central and local governments are saying a clear “No” to building more road capacity. It is a bitter pill to swallow for people who are stuck in traffic jams at common bottlenecks like the Terrace tunnel, Mt Victoria tunnel and the Melling interchange. Sadly a lot of those people are the real cause of this problem; driving their car when they could have taken a train, the bus, or even walked or cycled.

It is sad but not surprising to see Hutt mayor Ray Wallace suggesting that NZTA take the opportunity to add another traffic lane to SH2 by widening the foreshore a bit more while they are putting the seaside walking and bike lane in.

Sad as it shows that mayor Ray clearly isn’t very good at thinking things through, particularly with him suggesting that this can be done at minimal cost. Had he consulted some of his traffic engineers, they could have told him straight away that every metre of road infrastructure change costs thousands. Also, anyone who travels along SH2 can see straight away that the railway line would need to be moved to make way for another traffic lane. Now we’re really talking big BIG dollars. And only to get more people in cars faster to the next traffic jam.

Not surprising as mayor Ray hasn’t shown much vision for Getting the Hutt Moving, even when he could have easily figured out that what people want for Wellington, they also want for the Hutt. That is better public transport and safer, more enjoyable walking and cycling. This instead of creating more traffic chaos by allowing big box shopping developments in Petone or continuing to make Queensgate a big magnet for people in cars. For a number of years I have made submissions and complaints to mayor Ray and his Councillors, to lower traffic speeds and create more dead end streets to make the roads in suburbs safer and more people friendly. This is the easy stuff that the rest of New Zealand and the world is doing. Yet they can’t even ensure the basics like pedestrian crossing at the new Briscoes and Rebel Sports outlets in Petone.

Are more roads and cars what we want to leave as a legacy for our next generations? Hopefully people will use this year’s local body elections to vote in people with a fresh vision and thinking on how we need shift our traffic spending to better public transport, and safe walking & cycling infrastructure. We need actual leaders on our Hutt Council as well on the Greater Wellington Regional Council to push for fresh ideas like extending the Melling railway line into the Hutt CBD, creating a light rail link to Wainuiomata, and ensuring that our kids can safely walk and bike to schools and to sports fields etc.

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