The NZ Transport Agency has released details of proposed mitigation measures for the Basin Bridge and plans of the proposed duplication of the Mount Victoria Tunnel and widening of Ruahine Street and Wellington Road.
NZ Transport Agency regional director Jenny Chetwynd says the NZTA has lodged Resource Management Act applications for the Basin Bridge Project with the Environmental Protection Authority. The NZTA has also released updated proposals of the Mt Victoria Tunnel Duplication project, which is at an earlier stage in the process than the Basin bridge. The duplication project will improve State Highway 1, key local roads and pedestrian and cycling facilities between Paterson Street and Cobham Drive.
Ms Chetwynd says the State Highway 1 improvements have been developed as part of a transport vision for Wellington that recognises the importance of walking and cycling, encourages increased patronage for public transport, and creates a more efficient highway network that supports rather than constrains economic growth.
The proposals for the Basin Bridge and Mt Victoria improvements are designed to remove physical hurdles that are blocking the future upgrade of the city’s public transport spine, and include new and safer walking and cycling facilities from the Basin Bridge all the way to Kilbirnie. The proposals also reduce the road footprint from what was previously proposed at Ruahine Street, meaning less Town Belt land will be required than previously indicated.
Ms Chetwynd says taken together, the proposals for the southern section of the Wellington Northern Corridor mark a substantial leap forward in creating a transport network that simultaneously meets the different needs of all its users – whether they are public transport users, motorists, cyclists, or pedestrians. The proposals will also give effect to the Ngauranga to Airport Corridor Plan.
“Wellington is outgrowing its transport system, and we are now in the advanced stage of planning for improvements that will transform journeys through the city for everyone.”
“Having better roads, better public transport and better facilities for walking and cycling is good news for all travellers and all Wellingtonians. That’s exactly what this achieves. And by freeing up the transport system, we can remove obstacles to economic growth and make the city easier to get around.”
The projects form the southern section of the Wellington Northern Corridor Road of National Significance, which will improve economic productivity, ease congestion and improve safety throughout the Wellington region.
Ms Chetwynd says NZTA’s application includes a comprehensive suite of proposals to mitigate the project’s effects. One of these proposals is a new Basin Reserve Northern Gateway Building, which mitigates the visual impact of the new bridge on the Basin Reserve.
NZTA, Wellington City Council, and the Basin Reserve Trust have collectively agreed that a structure will be included in the consent application. The proposed structure, on the northern edge of the cricket ground, is a roughly 65m long, three level structure, extending from the existing players’ pavilion to the existing toilet block. The Northern Gateway Building will link with the proposed new pedestrian plaza at the end of Kent and Cambridge Terraces and include a new main entrance to the cricket ground and modern facilities for players’ and officials above.
Ms Chewtynd says the NZTA has worked closely with Council and the Trust on developing the mitigation measures, which recognise and address the visual effects of the bridge as required under the Resource Management Act. The building will screen the bridge from the ground while providing facilities that are in keeping with the ground’s character, purpose and use.
Ms Chetwynd says the NZTA proposes to build the structure in close consultation with the Council and the Trust. The parties are currently in discussions to confirm the final arrangements for the fit-out and ongoing management of the building. She says investment in mitigation measures is an essential part of any major project in an established urban area, and the NZTA understands the importance of reducing the impact on the cricket ground and surrounding environment.
“The transport and economic benefits of this project will be huge, but we also recognise that the Basin Bridge will have a significant impact on the area, and that’s what we are seeking to address. This mitigation package reduces the visual impact of the bridge while providing facilities that integrate with the character, historic and international status of the ground, and creates landscaped open space for the public to use.”
There will also be further opportunities to enhance design aspects such as the finishing and materials of the piers, the lighting design, and the layout of the open space.
Ms Chetwynd says that the Basin improvements will not only improve journey times for state highway traffic, but also for all north-south traffic travelling through Newtown and beyond, including public transport.
“The Basin Bridge enables Wellington to realise its ambitions to create a public transport spine that delivers the efficiency and agility that a world class city demands. Currently, meaningful improvements to the public transport spine are impossible because the combination of state highway and local road traffic is creating a blockage at the Basin Reserve.”
Ms Chetwynd says the Basin improvements will provide nearly a kilometre of additional dedicated cycle and pedestrian facilities, making active journeys through this busy hub far safer and more convenient. These improvements also include a new landscaped drop off and safe pick up area for schools on Dufferin Street.
She says that the walking and cycling facilities, totalling close to three kilometres, are proposed to be extended through the duplicate tunnel and out towards Kilbirnie, forming Wellington City’s biggest investment in walking and cycling infrastructure in recent memory.
The project will include landscaping that will extend the open space created at Memorial Park all the way down to Cambridge Terrace, entailing the planting of over 70 new trees and over a hectare of recreational space for the public.
For the Basin Bridge project, lodging consent applications is a significant milestone that has been years in the making.
“Lodging for consents is the result of hundreds of public submissions and years of investigation into improving travel through this critical part of the city.”
“Depending on the direction the application takes, the consenting process is anticipated to take nine months to complete from when it is notified. Once the EPA has advised us on how the application will be heard, the community will be notified as part of the formal submissions process.”
Ms Chetwynd says the Basin Bridge application may follow the same process as other critical projects, like Transmission Gully, MacKays to Peka Peka and Peka Peka to Otaki, and be heard by a Board of Inquiry. If this is the case, the outcome of the NZTA’s application should be known in (early) 2014.
The Basin Bridge RMA applications can be viewed at www.nzta.govt.nz/basin-bridge(external link).
The release of plans for the Mt Victoria Tunnel Duplication also clarifies the NZTA’s proposed plans for a second highway tunnel and road widening along Ruahine Street and Wellington Road.
Ms Chetwynd says the plans along Ruahine Street and Wellington Road have been future-proofed to be compatible with all potential options identified in the Public Transport Spine Study. Ms Chetwynd says development of the proposals, which were initially planned to be released earlier this year, was slowed down by the NZTA to ensure the proposals considered the potential need to future-proof the route to accommodate the outcomes of the Public Transport Spine Study.
“We consulted with the public in 2011 on proposed improvements between Paterson Street and Cobham Drive and after listening to the community we have made some key changes to these improvements.
“The improvements remain broadly the same in terms of where the road will be located and how it will function. The big changes occur along Ruahine Street where the width of the road has been reduced and therefore, the amount of land required from the Town Belt also reduces. This is a positive result as this was a concern raised through our consultation.
“Currently, traffic along Ruahine Street moves at snail’s pace during peak hour and there isn’t much provision for pedestrians and cyclists. Doubling the capacity of Ruahine Street, putting in a new facility for people travelling on foot or by bike, and linking it all to a second Mount Victoria Tunnel will make a world of difference to everyday travel.
“Increasing capacity and improving journey times through this route will help to support the continued growth of the airport and Eastern Suburbs, and make trips to catch a plane less fraught with uncertainty.”
Ms Chetwynd says the initial proposals saw Ruahine Street increased to up to seven lanes for highway traffic when turning lanes were included; the new proposals see a maximum of four lanes along the vast majority of Ruahine Street’s length. She says there are some trade-offs as a result of the reduced land take, with some turning movements at Goa Street restricted and the width of the pedestrian/cycle/slow vehicle lane (for residents accessing properties) reduced. This will not affect how the project operates when it is completed.
The pedestrian/cycle facility location on the city-side of the project has also changed. This now moves away from Paterson Street on a newly constructed path that will connect with Brougham Street. From here, the path connects to the pedestrian/cycle facilities included in both the Basin Bridge Project and National War Memorial Park. The existing path through the current Mt Victoria Tunnel will be removed once the new tunnel has been constructed.
As a priority, the project team have been talking to people whose properties are directly affected by the project to give them further clarity. The team is preparing an assessment of environmental effects document to support RMA consent applications, which the NZTA is likely to seek next year, pending further work on the Public Transport Spine.
Ms Chetwynd says further opportunities will be extended to the community to provide feedback on the improvements. The final form of the Ruahine Street and Wellington Road shared pedestrian/cycle/slow vehicle lane also needs to be considered further.
More details of these proposals can be viewed at wwww.nzta.govt.nz/mt-vic-duplication