Where to next for Basin solution?

MICHAEL FORBES AND PAUL EASTON
Last updated 05:00 24/07/2014
Basin Reserve flyover
FLYOVER: An artist's impression of the Basin Reserve Flyover, as seen from Kent Tce.

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A tunnel north of the Basin Reserve has been ruled out by the Government as an alternative to its failed flyover plans.

It has also hinted that Wellington will not get a planned $375 million second tunnel through Mt Victoria until something is done to fix the Basin's congestion woes.

Fallout from news that the proposed $90m flyover would not go ahead continued to reverberate yesterday, as it emerged that taxpayers stumped up $2.8m for the board of inquiry process that ended in the plan being killed off.

After a four-month hearing this year, a four-member board of inquiry decided there were too many holes in the New Zealand Transport Agency's business case to let the project proceed.

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said the decision was "incredibly disappointing" and not what people wanted for the Wellington region.

"Wellington misses out . . . but if that's what Wellington wants, I guess that's what happens."

He poured cold water on the idea of a tunnel, saying it would be foolish to build one in land that was once an inlet before it was raised by an earthquake in 1855.

"Putting a tunnel through what is effectively a deep swamp is not a smart idea."

Brownlee said the Government had no intention of abandoning Wellington. "But the city does need to start backing itself at some point."

Money earmarked for the flyover would not be reassigned until the board's decision had been made final on August 30 and parties had had a chance to challenge it.

Prime Minister John Key said yesterday he was "quite worried" by the flyover's demise. "I don't see in front of me a very easy answer if the right answer is not the flyover," he told Newstalk ZB.

"Wellington needs infrastructure, and that piece of infrastructure, whatever you think about the merits of it, is absolutely critically important."

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said a solution had to be found at the Basin before the planned second Mt Victoria tunnel could go ahead.

NZTA declined again to comment yesterday.

But Wellington Labour MPs Annette King and Grant Robertson were quick to point out the board had found serious shortcomings in the agency's handling of the project.

"There is no shortage of ideas, but the board is highly critical of the New Zealand Transport Agency for not adequately considering alternatives. That now has to change," Robertson said.

Green Party transport spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter said the flyover was the exact opposite of smart transport planning, and the board clearly understood this.

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Greater Wellington Regional Council chairwoman Fran Wilde said it was too early to say what other affordable alternatives to a flyover might exist.

"But this will definitely slow down the delivery of the rest of the transport solutions through Wellington."

Upper Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy described the decision as "catastrophic for the region".

"We need to get our heads together and come up with a solution, and it needs to be done fast. If we don't, our children and our grandchildren will be saying, what did our parents do, or not do?"

Wellington Airport chief executive Steve Sanderson said its investigations into a 300-metre runway extension were not affected by the flyover project falling over.

CRICKET WILL STILL BE PLAYED 

 

Test cricket will continue to be played at the Basin Reserve despite plans for a new $12 million players' pavilion being dead in the water.

Cricket Wellington chief executive Peter Clinton was upbeat yesterday about the news that a proposed $90m two-lane flyover was unlikely to be built 20 metres north of the historic cricket ground.

The New Zealand Transport Agency had also planned to build the 13-metre-high pavilion at the northern end of the Basin to block the elevated highway from view inside the venue.

But with a board of inquiry having signalled it will decline resource consent for the project, Cricket Wellington was preparing for life without the new pavilion, Clinton said.

"It's perhaps a missed opportunity in terms of getting urgent investment into the ground . . . and some of the opportunities that might have flown from that," he said.

"But it is still business as usual at the ground."

Clinton admitted the Basin was under increased pressure to have modern media and player facilities for when it hosted test matches.

But given the Basin currently had those facilities, there was little likelihood of the International Cricket Council taking its test status away any time soon, he said.

"The Basin will still be hosting test cricket as far as we're concerned."

Clinton said Cricket Wellington and the Basin Reserve Trust were preparing to put its long-term plan in front of the Wellington City Council, which would include its funding priorities.

He did not say whether ratepayers would be asked to fund an alternative pavilion, but stressed both organisations were not interested in filling the venue with big grandstands.

"We're a boutique ground . . . we don't think they're necessary."

Maintaining the facilities already at the Basin and possibly installing floodlights remained high priorities, he said.

WHAT ELSE CAN NZTA DO?

The Transport Agency has not publicly stated what its Plan B is if the flyover decision stands. But five options received more attention than the rest during the four-month flyover board of inquiry hearing.

 

OPTION C (designed by NZTA)

Cost: $50m-$70m

How it works: A four-lane highway is created behind Grandstand Apartments, linking Kent Tce to Patterson St. Eastbound SH1 traffic turns left on to the road 50 metres before it reaches the Basin Reserve. Westbound SH1 traffic follows the highway to new signalled intersection at Kent and Cambridge Tce. It crosses over and continues on another new two-lane highway that connects to the Buckle St Underpass.

The good: No elevated roads or extra lanes outside the Basin, pedestrians heading south on Dufferin St do not need to cross SH1.

The bad: Five properties need to go, and the new highway would sever the National War Memorial Park.

OPTION D (designed by NZTA)

Cost: $40m-$50m

How it works: Westbound SH1 traffic exits Mt Victoria Tunnel and turns right on to a new two-lane highway north of the Basin. Eastbound SH1 traffic follows its current path. Local traffic uses a new road northeast of the Basin that connects to the roundabout.

The good: No elevated roads, less intrusion, only two properties need to go.

The bad: Six lanes of traffic concentrated at the northeast corner of the Basin; two intersections would cause delays; pedestrians have to cross more highway.

OPTION F (designed by NZTA)

Cost: Up to $420m

How it works: Westbound SH1 traffic exits Mt Victoria Tunnel into a 100m-long trench and then a 400m-long tunnel that runs north of the Basin Reserve. Local and eastbound SH1 traffic continues as now.

The good: No elevated road, less traffic in the Basin heritage area, same time-savings as a flyover, better pedestrian access to the Basin, only two properties need to go.

The bad: Expensive due to difficult ground conditions; gradient and length make it costly to maintain; trenched areas of SH1 difficult for pedestrians to cross.

OPTION X (designed by Architectural Centre)

Cost: $166m-$255m

How it works: Sussex St widened to four lanes so all local traffic can flow west of the Basin. Buckle St Underpass extended underneath, allowing highway traffic to flow at street level north of the cricket ground. Area between Government House and the Basin Reserve is converted into a park.

The good: Elevated road is behind the RA Vance Stand rather than outside the Basin's northern gate, more green space.

The bad: Six lanes of traffic concentrated at the northwest corner of the Basin, some properties along Sussex and Rugby streets would have to go; the park outside Government House could create school access and safety issues.

BASIN RESERVE ROUNDABOUT ENHANCEMENT OPTION (designed by Mt Victoria Residents Association)

Cost: $6.2m-$19.5m

How it works: Existing Basin roundabout is widened to a minimum of three lanes, expanding to five at the northeast and southeast corners of the ground. Intersections are improved.

The good: Cheap, no elevated road or major changes to the Basin Reserve.

The bad: Would do little to improve congestion around the Basin (according to NZTA and city council); road widening would go very close to existing buildings.

- The Dominion Post

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