‘Vague’ timeframe for urgent $70 million upgrade to Auckland bottleneck Lake Rd
Intentionally "vague" times frames for a potential $70 million upgrade to one of Auckland's worst traffic bottlenecks has been met with anxiety from politicians and residents alike.
On May 16, Auckland Transport (AT) released its long-awaited indicative business case to improve the perpetually congested Lake Rd, an arterial route running the length of the North Shore peninsula from Takapuna to Devonport.
They outlined three funding investment options.
The "low" $10 million upgrade option, deliverable in the next five years, would add one extra lane northward.
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The "medium" $30 to 40 million upgrade, deliverable in five to 10 years, would add two extra lanes along part of the length of Lake Rd.
The "high" $70-plus million upgrade, deliverable in 10-plus years, would provide two extra lanes for most of Lake Rd.
But, in response to questions from the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board at its May 16 business meeting on realistic time frames for these road improvements, Auckland Transport's Daniel Newcombe said he had been "trying to be quite vague" on the prescribed delivery dates.
In particular, Newcombe said the "medium" and "high" investment time frames were "scales", which would be entirely determined by the difficulty of the resource consent process to alter existing street kerbs and acquire residential properties.
"It depends how complex we end up going. So, something that doesn't need lots of consent, we can get that done much quicker," Newcombe said.
"Bear in mind we don't have the actual funding for delivery secured yet. So, that's the first step.
"If the result is expected to be free flowing traffic at all times I think none of the options that we've ever seen will do that because of the situation the peninsula finds itself in, that we can't do all cars, for all trips, for all times."
Devonport-Takapuna Local Board chair Grant Gillon said he was bemused, particularly by the five-year time frame for the "low" $10 million upgrade.
This "low" investment model would not alter the existing Lake Rd kerbs at all, but include new road markings to achieve some segments of transit lanes.
"Even to have a solution in five years is far too long," Gillon said.
"People have put up with what's happening now for years, and the solution they [AT] discusses in five years revolves mainly around a fly-over at Esmonde Rd and changing some road markings. I don't think it's the sort of solution that people of Devonport-Takapuna were actually expecting."
The "fly-over" Gillon refers to is a planned additional transit lane along Esmonde Rd which connects Lake Rd to the Northern motorway in Takapuna.
All three upgrade options include this.
However, councillor for the North Shore ward Chris Darby was confident any of the Lake Rd upgrade options could start within, or earlier, than the prescribed AT time frames, because their focus on public transport would score highly when applying for funding.
"I envisage a start date of four to five years for the medium level, if there is concerted political and community support," Darby said.
"Projects are not prioritised arbitrarily but assessed by specific criteria. If the bus priority and high-occupant vehicles remain the intended users of the additional lanes, then the project will score well and be prioritised accordingly."
Local board member Jan O'Connor said Lake Rd upgrades had to be acted on within the next five years.
"My preferred option is to do it straight away," Oconnor said.
"Something has to be done in the next two to three years, and there's quite a few traffic pinch points, intersections that could be worked on straightaway."
On the streets of Devonport, at the base of Lake Rd, opinions on the ideal road upgrade option were evenly spread.
But, even those in favour of the long-term $70-million solution said quick-fix improvements needed to happen in the meantime.
"I think a 10-year option is probably going to have to happen, because the area will be increasingly developed. There is no doubt about that," Narrow Neck resident Barbara Bradbury said.
"I think there would have to be some quick-fix, as well, because it's hopeless at the moment."
Former legacy North Shore City councillor and Devonport resident Joel Cayford said the $70 million double-lane upgrade to Lake Rd shouldn't take 10 years.
"I don't think it necessarily would need to take that. I think the engineers need to think a little bit harder about what they're doing in some of the pinch points," Cayford said.
"They should be trying to do what they can within the road corridor that's there rather than taking property at huge expense. The priority for this is the next five years."
Devonport resident Josephine Sharp said AT was "dragging their feet" on the upgrade.
"Under five years would be the best solution. If you look at countries like Singapore where things get built in six months, I don't really know why it will take that long," Sharp said.
AT's next steps in developing their Lake Rd business case is to complete further public consultation during the month of June.
Using this feedback, AT will present their completed indicative business case, with the preferred "high", "medium", "low" upgrade option, to Auckland Council and the New Zealand Transport Agency for funding in the third financial quarter of 2017.
If funding is secured, then a detailed business case will begin at the close of 2017, outlining a specific design.