Grafton Gully Upgrade EMA Promotes Funding
Grafton Gully Upgrade EMA Promotes Funding Precedent
Auckland City Council will tomorrow consider a recommendation from its Transport and Roading Committee which identifies the ‘Below Grade’ option as its preference for upgrading SH16-Grafton Gully at Stanley Street.
The ‘Below Grade’ option is more expensive than the ‘Viaduct’ or ‘At Grade’ options developed by Transit New Zealand but it has a range of advantages compared to them.
Chairwoman of the Transport & Roading Committee Councillor Catherine Harland says, “It provides free flow conditions for through traffic which is particularly important for the Ports of Auckland. It provides the best linkages for pedestrians and cyclists, has the least noise and social impacts. Further the option enables Stanley Street to be revitalised as a quality, urban street.”
“Overall, it provides the best balance between the state highway objectives and the resulting environmental effects.”
Transit New Zealand has acknowledged the advantages that the ‘Below Grade’ option has but under current funding rules it is unlikely that Transit could build the option.
Cr Harland says, “Some, including the Employer and Manufacturers Association, argue the additional 30 to 35 million dollars needed should be obtained from Infrastructure Auckland. But there is no guarantee that IA will be prepared to grant a third of the $90 million it has set aside for the next five years on just one project.”
“There is a significant risk that Auckland City ratepayers will be asked to contribute to upgrading a national strategic road and that would set a dangerous precedent for the many other major strategic road improvements that are currently being planned,” says Cr Harland
“We are likely to face this same situation with the SH20 extension through Avondale where an option that has the least community and environmental impacts is the most expensive and therefore can not be funded by Transfund.”
Under Transfund’s current rules, projects that have a benefit/cost ratio of 3.0 or more are fundable and therefore can be built. The ‘Below Grade’ option meets this criteria. However the ‘Viaduct’ and ‘At Grade’ options both have higher benefit/cost ratios of around 4.3 and 4.4. The cheapest option must be selected under Transfund’s current rules so the ‘Below Grade’ misses out.
Cr Harland says, “What the Transport & Roading Committee is suggesting is that central government allow Transfund to relax that ‘cheapest first’ ruling so an option which is economically viable and has better community and environmental outcomes is built.”
“There is absolutely no reason why this request to central government can not be dealt with as rapidly as an application to Infrastructure Auckland,” says Cr Harland.
“Auckland City is keen to see the Stanley Street bottleneck upgraded urgently but we need to explore all national funding possibilities and not automatically dip into our limited regional and ratepayer pockets and set a precedent for the future which we later live to regret.”
“The Employer and Manufacturers Association needs to think in broader, strategic terms so our roads and our environment can be improved in the years to come as well as now,” says Cr Harland