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East-West Link project delay – “unacceptable”

East-West Link project delay – “unacceptable”

The slow pace of decision-making over the long-promised new East-West road on the north side of Mangere Inlet between SH1 at Mt Wellington and SH20 at Onehunga is shaping as a classic case study of why Auckland’s infrastructure provision is failing to keep pace with the city’s growth.

Calling on the agencies responsible for the project to take urgent action and get their act together with a scope and cost that addresses all critical issues, Auckland Business Forum chairman Michael Barnett said at the current rate of progress Auckland will have added another 180,000 people, road freight volumes will have doubled and gridlock on local roads will be end-to-end throughout the working day before construction begins.

“It is bad enough that it took from 2007 to 2013 for warnings about growing congestion at the Mt Wellington and Onehunga ends of the route to be taken seriously, when the Prime Minister John Key announced that the project would be accelerated.

Those warnings included that Auckland’s growth justified a new road being in place by 2020.

In 2014 the former Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee provided a written assurance that as soon as there was greater certainty over the project’s scope and cost “decisions about financial assistance to support construction will be provided.”

More than a year on there is still no satisfactory scope. A preferred route concept acceptable to the Forum and other stakeholders was announced months ago, but decisions are awaited on important detail like the absence of a SH1 connection for northbound traffic and ensuring it is fit for purpose with the rest of the network.

"We're 90% of the way there with the planning for this project - don't spoil it by getting the last 10% wrong. As we have repeatedly said a partial solution will not be acceptable,” said Mr Barnett.

What’s holding up progress?

“Given the Prime Minister’s 2013 announcement that the project would be part of the Auckland Accelerated projects package, and the assurance about funding once the scope was agreed, we should be close to starting construction.”

The private sector would fund this project tomorrow as a PPP – the same as Wellington’s Transmission Gully.

Instead it seems that the two agencies co-ordinating the project, NZTA and Auckland Transport, are still arguing over the scope (even through respective Boards have signed off at a high level), and critical issues raised by stakeholders including the Forum are being ignored.

It is clearly not good enough for a City struggling to keep ahead of the growth curve and be a progressive city that New Zealanders can be proud of, concluded Mr Barnett.

Note to Editors: The East-West Connection was first proposed in the mid-1960s as part of the Auckland strategic road network needed by 1990 when Auckland’s population was projected to reach 1 million from its then 300,000. The area has grown into Auckland’s second highest employment area after the CBD and is New Zealand’s industrial heartland accounting for about 18% of Auckland’s GDP.

ENDS

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