Council puts proviso on flyover

Wellington City Council is backing the cheaper of two proposed flyovers near the Basin Reserve, but says millions of dollars must be spent improving its design before it is acceptable.

A council submission on the NZ Transport Agency roading plans calls for the flyover to be "future-proofed" so an underground road can be built beneath Buckle St "if funding becomes available".

Although the draft submission recommends the council support the cheaper $75 million "option A" flyover, it warns that the government roading authority has underestimated the road's significant negative effects.

The flyover would cut off the community from New Zealand's oldest cricket ground, reduce property values, alter the character of a heritage precinct and affect residents' quality of life.

The council also warns the flyover would damage Buckle St's Memorial Park, "which should be a place of remembrance, contemplation and also celebration".

Although council officials give tacit support for the flyover, they now want it hidden with new buildings, arcades, artworks and lighting treatments, plus extensive planting and landscaping, to make the road less visually obtrusive.

"Option A is not acceptable without significantly more mitigation than is currently provided for."

The paper contains recommendations on the Government's Ngauranga to Airport Corridor Plan, which includes both $75 million and $90m flyover options, and a second Mt Victoria tunnel, to cut congestion and ease traffic flow to the airport and eastern suburbs.

It is expected to divide the council when it meets for a briefing today. Councillors will vote on the paper at a committee meeting on Thursday.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said last week taxpayers should fund a tunnel beneath Buckle St to prevent the "backside" of a flyover blighting a nationally significant part of the city that includes Government House and the National War Memorial.

A tunnelling option has gained traction since the Architecture Centre released concept designs this year for an alternative transport plan known as option X. However, the plan is estimated to cost up to $165m and NZTA has dismissed it as impractical and too expensive.

The stoush looks set to pit the council against the Government over the city's preferred roading option and who should pay what share.

Wellington state highways manager Rod James said NZTA had analysed numerous options over three years.

The proposed flyovers would achieve necessary transport improvements in terms of separating traffic streams, making walking and cycling safer and allow for development of public transport measures such as bus priority lanes or light rail.

The agency appreciated there was considerable interest in tunnelling beneath Memorial Park, but the money was not available.

"However, we've allowed for flexibility by future-proofing the [flyovers'] design to allow for the possibility of a tunnel to be built under Memorial Park in the future."

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The Dominion Post