17 May 2019

$6.4b transport plan 'won't solve Wellington's gridlock'

10:12 am on 17 May 2019

A $6.4 billion plan to overhaul Wellington's transport network will fail to fix the gridlock for commuters coming in and out of the city, regional leaders say.

Traffic is backing up on SH1 out of Wellington due to the slip on the Ngauranga Gorge.

This scene of back-up traffic coming out of Wellington won't be addressed by the new plan, say local politicians. Photo: Twitter: NZTA

The project includes yet-to-be-detailed rapid transit from the city to airport, and a second Mt Victoria tunnel.

Rush-hour traffic heading to and from the Hutt and Kapiti Coast is often brought to a standstill at Ngauranga Gorge, but there's no mention of motorway congestion or how it would be dealt with in the Let's Get Wellington Moving plan.

Hutt Mayor Ray Wallace has called for the government to put in an extra lane from Ngauranga Gorge to Petone.

"Clearly, unless there is something done, and this is why we need to get that now in the plan to have that additional third lane or removable lane in that's going to be more crucial than ever, because if we don't get that in, than this Wellington Moving plan really fails at that point."

He's only supporting the plan at this stage because the Transport Minister has promised the Hutt will get the long awaited Melling Upgrade and the Petone to Grenada link.

Both projects have been put on hold, and won't be considered for funding for another decade.

Another problem for Wellington commuters is the motorway bottleneck at the Terrace Tunnel close to the city.

State Highway One continues from the Tunnel as a narrow road through the middle of the city and the plan has ditched an earlier idea of putting the route underground.

That falls short of what is needed, Wellington Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Milford said.

"So we're not getting a second Terrace tunnel, which means we're still going to have traffic flowing through the middle of the city, on roads that will be unsuitable for the volume of traffic we're talking about."

Mr Milford also has reservations about how it will be funded, with local councils expected to come up with $2.56b of the cost, which he said could result in residential and business rate increases.

"We've now got one hand tied behind our back because the regional fuel tax has been taken off the table by government so we're going to have to come up with new methodologies."

AA spokesperson Mike Noon said that road users' would be expected to cough up, without getting their fair share of investment.

"Road users' will be paying for a lot of this through their taxes that they pay on the road and inflation-adjusted taxes that they pay and that is going to be for 10, 20, 30 years so the big concern here, is this going to use nearly all of the available money in Wellington for decades."

Transport Minister Phil Twyford was confident at yesterday's announcement that $4.4b over the next 30-years for regional roading projects would be enough.

"We have ensured in the modelling that we have allowed plenty of future expenditure for the Wellington region that would be enough to accommodate the big projects that are in the region's regional land transport programme."

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