Waterview Connection Tunnel Should Be Dropped
30 March 2009
Waterview Connection Tunnel Should Be Dropped
More than a billion dollars can be saved by abandoning the proposed SH20 Waterview Connection tunnel for a surface option
The Auckland Business Forum has sent a report to Transport Minister Steven Joyce detailing how a mainly surface option at grade similar to the neighbouring Mt Roskill section now under construction would cut the cost of the Waterview Connection from more than $2.5 billion to around $1 billion.
“The revised cost, in a range between $950 million and $1.2 billion, provides for considerable attention to environmental and community impacts that are not present in the Mt Roskill project,” said chairman Michael Barnett. This compares to the $2.78 billion estimated for building a twin 3-lane tunnel.
The construction cost of the Mr Roskill Extension due to open within two months is $240 million but is a kilometer shorter and doesn’t have the same environmental challenges as the Waterview section. It comprises two lanes in each direction future proofed to become 3 lanes each way when required.
Using the Mt Roskill cost as a comparison, the lowest cost the 5.3 km Waterview section could be build by following the same route as the proposed tunnel but on the surface would be around $400 million the Forum report notes. However, the Waterview section has major additional construction challenges, including having to go over or under the Northwestern rail line, New North Road and Oakley Creek. There are also some significant community concerns that will need to be taken into account, said Mr Barnett. Addressing these additional issues will bring the cost closer to $950 million or just above $1 billion – but still less than half the $2.78 billion for a tunnel on the full route.
He believed that with a resolve to highlight the significant benefits of completing the route while taking into account the concerns of Waterview community, there is a lot of money that can be saved and used on other pressing transport projects.
Releasing the Forum report Mr Barnett said it was pretty clear that a mainly surface option would ensure value for money for taxpayers and road users that would not be possible with a tunnel for the full route. At the same time there are some practical steps that will be required to address mitigation issues, especially near the northern Waterview interchange with the north western motorway and where Oakley Creek runs along side Great North Road.
The key issue centres on the attractiveness of building the surface route for significantly less than a tunnel and saving a billion dollars versus addressing the social impacts and the political appetite to take this option.
The Waterview Connection project through Avondale, Mt Albert and Waterview is the vital last link in the Western Ring Route which the Government last week confirmed as a road of ‘national significance’. Once completed, the route will create an alternative 48km motorway between Manukau and Albany by linking three state highways, the southwestern (SH20), the northwestern motorway (SH16) and the upper harbour drive (SH18), and thereby create an alternative clearly defined and timely access route to-from North Shore, Auckland CBD and business areas in Manukau City including Auckland Airport.
“Moving ahead quickly with the Waterview section is crucial to the completion of the Western Ring Route by 2015, and will help ease the daily gridlock on the Southern Motorway” said Mr Michael Barnett. The report sets out a time line of how the project can be completed in five years by using the Government’s proposed new ‘call in’ procedures under the Resource Management Act. “If we have the resolve, we can make it happen quickly.”
When the previous Government announced proposals for a tunnel 12 months ago, the Forum questioned why a surface option hadn’t been submitted along with the tunnel and two cut and cover options. The Forum also requested that a peer review of the costings all four options be undertaken and made public.
“Last April I said: While the Forum strongly concurs that we must not lose sight of the bigger picture and key goal to complete the WRR by 2015, and conditionally supports a tunnel to achieve that goal, at the same time Aucklanders and other New Zealanders deserve to know the full costs of the choices that we are making and why. These concerns should not be construed as reasons for delay.”
These concerns stand. If anything, however, the case for getting on with the Waterview connection under urgency has increased, concluded Mr Barnett.