Buckle St tunnel plan fails to fly

OPTION X: A private proposed option to the redevelopment of the Basin Reserve area.
OPTION X: A private proposed option to the redevelopment of the Basin Reserve area.

Building a tunnel under Buckle St instead of a flyover near the Basin Reserve was given the kiss of death yesterday by the Government's roadbuilders – at least in the short term.

Wellington City Council's draft submission backs the cheaper of two NZ Transport Agency proposed flyovers near the Basin Reserve.

The move comes after a slim majority of councillors voiced support for the Architecture Centre's alternative transport plan, known as option X, during an informal meeting a few weeks ago.

People brave the rain to protest the Basin Reserve flyover.
People brave the rain to protest the Basin Reserve flyover.

NZ Transport Agency told councillors at a briefing yesterday that the cost of option X would end up being more than $200 million – about $50m more than forecast.

The blowout would come from NZTA acquiring $10m to $30m worth of property along Sussex St so it could be widened for four lanes of two-way traffic. Up to $8m worth of property would also have to be acquired near the intersection of Adelaide Rd and Rugby St to widen the road.

Other additional costs include $7m to $11m on the longer than anticipated Buckle St tunnel proposal, between $1 and $2m on a pedestrian bridge at Dufferin St, and $3m on a school drop-off point outside St Marks school.

Transport Agency planning manager Selwyn Blackmore said the likelihood of the Government providing extra funding for Option X was "low".

The council will debate its submission tomorrow, but it appears to be on the brink of supporting a $75 million flyover, known as option A, about 25 metres to the north of the Basin Reserve.

The road would be "future-proofed" to allow for an underground road beneath Buckle St should funding become available.

However, Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said the council's submission went only as far as saying option A was better than option B – a $90m flyover further to the north of the Basin Reserve – but didn't support either.

"I don't think a flyover is a good 50-year answer for this significant part of Wellington. If NZTA insists on the cheapest option, we must work to improve it but I suspect `an attractive flyover' is an oxymoron. Look at the bridge over Thorndon Quay, for example."

The council's transport strategy principal adviser, Tass Larsen, said the $20m included in the flyover's budget to mitigate its effects would be insufficient to hide the flyover with new buildings, arcades, artworks and lighting treatments, plus extensive planting and landscaping.

However, the council did not know how much it would cost the Transport Agency to adequately complete the work, she said.

Mr Blackmore told councillors that the cost of mitigation was not of major concern.

"The Basin project is so vitally important to sort out the traffic issues that it would go ahead even if mitigation doubled."

Basin Reserve Trust member and councillor John Morrison was involved in getting an agreement for NZTA to build a state-of-the-art grandstand to hide the flyover if option A went ahead.

"I am very comfortable with the agreement between NZTA and the Basin Reserve Trust and look forward to the new stand which will very satisfactorily mitigate any possible negative effects of Option A on the Basin Reserve."

The council' s strategy and policy committee meets tomorrow morning to decide on its draft submission to the transport agency.

The Dominion Post