Next Waitemata Harbour Crossing Should Be “All Encompassing,” Says Michael Barnett.
By ‘all encompassing’, I mean that the next harbour crossing should acknowledge that with more half the bridge traffic wanting to bypass the central city, it will be a project for the whole of New Zealand.
With a push on electric vehicles underway, a new harbour crossing is needed for resilience and to meet growth. With more than half New Zealanders now living within easy reach of Auckland, the priority for such a large investment is to ensure that it also supports the upper North Island’s long-term growth – movement of people and goods, as well as easy access for Auckland residents and employment.
A 2018 NZ Transport Agency analysis shows that the approaches to the Bridge are now at capacity in both directions at the AM and PM peaks.
Less than half of commuters travelling south across the bridge in the morning work in the CBD, meaning enhanced public transport alone is unlikely to meet their needs.
Heavy commercial traffic has increased 30% in 5 years and restrictions on freight are expected around 2030. With an additional cost per truck of $40 to use the Western Ring Route and 27,000 expected to cross the harbour in 2046 – that’s $1 million extra per day.
The bridge is 60 years old. Clearly, Auckland, Northland and the rest of New Zealand will need long-term an additional and modern harbour crossing for general traffic.
COVID, the accelerating demand for electric vehicles and new fuels such as hydrogen, provide an opportunity for a fresh look at Auckland’s overall network demands and growth plan (i.e. where homes and jobs are anticipated), and overlay this with updates to technology assumptions
Although the need is urgent the decision shouldn’t be rushed or reactive. It should be considered, evidence based and justified on the basis of long term economic, social, environmental and cultural outcomes. The Infrastructure Commission needs to review the project in the context of infrastructure needs for the upper North Island.